- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. Bush on Iraq.

“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.

In Washington, a U.S. official said Mr. Putin’s information did not add to what the United States already knew about Saddam’s intentions.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Putin’s tip didn’t give a time or place for any attack.

Mr. Bush said Thursday that Saddam had “numerous contacts” with al Qaeda and that Iraqi agents had met with the terror network’s leader, Osama bin Laden.

Saddam “was a threat because he had terrorist connections — not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations,” Mr. Bush said.

However, a commission investigating the September 11 attacks reported this week that, while there were contacts between al Qaeda 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.

In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Putin sharply rebuked the United States for going to war despite opposition within the U.N. Security Council.

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