- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign spy agency yesterday denied that Moscow gave Saddam Hussein information on U.S. troop movements and plans during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

A Pentagon report Friday cited two seized Iraqi documents as saying Russia obtained information from sources “inside the American Central Command” in Qatar and passed battlefield intelligence to Saddam through the former Russian ambassador in Baghdad, Vladimir Titorenko.

The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service dismissed the claims.

“Similar, baseless accusations concerning Russia’s intelligence have been made more than once,” agency spokesman Boris Labusov said. “We don’t consider it necessary to comment on such fabrications.”

Yevgenia Albats, a Moscow-based journalist who specializes in intelligence matters, said she suspected there was “at least a certain truth reflected in the Pentagon report,” considering Russia’s close relationship with the ousted Iraqi leader.

But she cautioned that didn’t necessarily mean the Kremlin was involved.

“It is sometimes difficult to figure out whether certain steps were undertaken with the knowledge of top Russian authorities or whether those were steps undertaken by certain intelligence officers on their own,” Miss Albats told the Associated Press.

Sergei Oznobishchev, head of the Institute of Strategic Evaluations and Analysis, suggested that the public release of the report reflected increasing U.S. distrust for Russia.

“They are irritated by Russia’s strengthening position in the international arena and its foreign policy course,” Mr. Oznobishchev was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Iraqi documents also left unknown who may have been the sources at Central Command’s war-fighting headquarters, which is at Camp As Sayliyah just outside Doha, the capital of Qatar. No Russians were authorized to be at the closely guarded base.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold told Iraqi leaders yesterday that American patience was growing thin and they needed to urgently overcome their stalemate and form a national unity government.

“We need very badly to form this unity government as soon as possible,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said after meetings with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

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