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US says will question Russia on Iraq documents

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Mar 26 (Reuters) The United States will ask Russia whether it had authorized its ambassador in Baghdad to give intelligence on US military movements to Iraq at the start of the US-led invasion, US officials today said.

But the top White House security adviser rejected a suggestion that Washington should boycott a planned economic summit of the G8 nations in St Petersburg this summer if the report of the intelligence-sharing is true.

A Pentagon report last week said a captured April 2, 2003, document from the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs to President Saddam Hussein stated that the Russian ambassador had funneled intelligence on US plans to the Iraqi government.

Another Iraqi document, dated March 24, 2003, referred to Russian ''sources'' inside the US military's Central Command headquarters in Qatar, according to the report.

''We're going to take a good, hard look at the documentation and understand a little bit better what's there, and then we'll raise it,'' US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on CNN's ''Late Edition'' program.

''Any implication that there were those from a foreign government who may have been passing information to the Iraqis prior to the invasion would be, of course, very worrying,'' she said.

Russia has dismissed the Pentagon report as ''groundless accusations,'' according to the Interfax news agency quoting Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov.

Asked whether the Russians were lying when they said it was nonsense, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said: ''We don't know yet. We know there's a document, we know that got into the hands of the Iraqis. We know that it dealt with war plans that we had.'' He said there were still unanswered questions about how the Russians got the information out of US Central Command and whether the Russian ambassador was authorized to pass it on to the Iraqi government.

''So there are further questions that we need to raise, but it's a serious matter and we'll be talking to the Russians about it,'' Hadley said on CBS television's ''Face The Nation.'' Russian President Vladimir Putin had opposed the invasion of Iraq, with which Moscow had long-standing economic ties.

Sen Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said on ''Face The Nation'' that if it turns out to be true, the United States should review its relationship with Russia and whether to attend the G8 summit in St Petersburg this summer.

But Hadley said the setting in St Petersburg would put international focus on issues of democracy in Russia, so ''at this point we think there's a lot of value in going forward with the G8.'' He added ''It's going to challenge Russia, it's going to challenge President Putin to make clear and answer some of the concerns that the international community has raised.'' Reuters OM VP0002

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