Putin- Russia warned U.S. about potential Iraqi attacks
Saturday, June 19, 2004
ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday his government warned Washington that Saddam Hussein's regime was preparing attacks in the United States and its interests abroad -- an assertion that appears to bolster President Bush's contention that Iraq was a threat.
Putin emphasized that the intelligence didn't cause Russia to waver from its firm opposition to the U.S.-led war last year, but his statement was the second this month in which he has offered at least some support for Bush on Iraq.
"After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services ... received information that officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other interests," Putin said.
"Despite that information ... Russia's position on Iraq remains unchanged," he said in the Kazakh capital, Astana, after regional economic and security summits. He said Russia didn't have any information that Saddam's regime had actually been behind any terrorist acts.
"It's one thing to have information that Saddam's regime is preparing terrorist attacks, [but] we didn't have information that it was involved in any known terrorist attacks," he said.
Few details offeredPutin didn't elaborate on any details of the alleged plots or mention whether they were tied to al-Qaida. He said Bush had personally thanked one of the leaders of Russia's intelligence agencies for the information but that he couldn't comment on how critical it was in the U.S. decision to invade Iraq.
In Washington, a U.S. official said Putin's information did not add to what the United States already knew about Saddam's intentions.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Putin's tip didn't give a time or place for a possible attack.
Bush alleged Thursday that Saddam had "numerous contacts" with al-Qaida and said Iraqi agents had met with the terror network's leader, Osama bin Laden, in Sudan.
Saddam "was a threat because he had terrorist connections -- not only al-Qaida connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations," Bush said.
However, a commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported this week that while there were contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq, they did not appear to have produced "a collaborative relationship."
Also Thursday, a top Russian diplomat called for international inspectors to resolve conclusively the question of whether Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction.
"This problem must be resolved ... because to a great extent it became the pretext for the start of the war against Iraq," the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov as saying. He said such a finding would allow the U.N. Security Council to "finally close the dossier on Iraqi weapons."
In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Putin sharply rebuked the United States for going to war despite opposition within the U.N. Security Council and said the threat posed to international security by the war was greater than that posed by Saddam.
But Putin's relationship with Bush is warm by the accounts of both leaders, and last week he said he has no patience for those who criticize Bush on Iraq.
"I don't pay attention to such publications," Putin said of media criticism of Bush at the end of the Group of Eight summit in the United States, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Putin said opponents who criticize Bush on Iraq "don't have any kind of moral right. ... They conducted exactly the same kind of policy in Yugoslavia."
Russia vehemently opposed the NATO bombing attacks on Yugoslavia in 1999, which the United States pushed for under President Clinton.