- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

MOSCOW Russia went on a media offensive yesterday to repeat denials of American accusations that it is selling anti-tank guided missiles, jamming devices and night-vision goggles to Iraq. It hinted that Washington also had sold sensitive equipment to other nations.
The Kremlin, which usually issues its statements by fax or through the main Russian news agencies, took the unusual step of calling news organizations and dictating a statement publicizing its version of a conversation Monday between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The White House said Mr. Bush had called Mr. Putin to complain about the sales of military equipment, which could pose a danger to American troops.
Instead, Kremlin spokesman Alexei Gromov said Mr. Putin was the one who brought up the accusations, denied them and said that Russia respects the U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
"The president of Russia also notes that the discussion concerns unproved, public declarations that can damage the relations between the two countries," Mr. Gromov said.
Mr. Gromov hinted that Mr. Putin also mentioned past situations in which the United States had sold military equipment to other countries. The official who dictated the statement declined to name the instances or the countries involved.
Washington and Moscow have disagreed recently over issues ranging from missile-defense plans to NATO expansion. Russia sided with France and Germany to block a Bush-backed U.N. resolution sanctioning military conflict to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
At a press conference yesterday in the Russian nuclear weapons center of Sarov, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev accused some of the United States' "closest allies" of providing dangerous nuclear equipment to Iran turning the tables on Washington, which has frequently accused Moscow of leaking nuclear and missile technologies to Tehran.
Mr. Rumyantsev said he was "alarmed" by press reports that an Anglo-Dutch consortium, Urenco, had provided centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported.
A spokesman for Urenco denied the accusation and challenged Russia to produce proof. Urenco is owned by the British, German and Dutch governments and provides uranium-enrichment services for nuclear power plants.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Washington had "credible evidence" of the Russian sales and that intelligence reports indicated ongoing cooperation between a Russian company producing jamming equipment and the Iraqi military. Russian officials denied the charge.

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