Sunday, March 26, 2006

The U.S. is unlikely to boycott the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg based on a report showing information-sharing between Iraq and Russia, but officials are demanding to know whether a Russian ambassador was authorized to leak military actions to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Even if the Pentagon report released last week is true, the economic summit hosted by Russia is too important to neglect, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said yesterday.

“It’s going to be interesting this year because the attention of the international community is going to be focused on St. Petersburg this summer, and one of the questions they’re going to raise is what about democracy in Russia?” Mr. Hadley told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that Moscow sided against the U.S. on the invasion of Iraq, but said the Bush administration wants to know Russia’s full role.

“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,” Miss Rice said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “I would think the Russians would want to take that very seriously as well.”

Moscow has denied any involvement in the matter.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, suggested the boycott earlier on “Late Edition.” He said the United States needs to reassess its relationship with the former Soviet Union.

He said the matter is of “enormous importance and consequence” because any such action by Russia would have endangered American lives.

“I think you’d have to rethink whether we’re going to the G-8 conference. Clearly, we’re not going to have business as usual,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The Pentagon says a Russian mole at the U.S. military Command in Doha, Qatar, gave secret information about troop movements and operations to the Iraqi government.

The Senate returns today from a 10-day recess, and the Select Committee on Intelligence has asked for a Pentagon briefing.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and intelligence committee chairman.

He said the report is no surprise.

“We had the oil-for-food situation, and then Russia depending on the oil from Iraq, so I’m not too terribly surprised. I would be surprised if that connection went all the way to Moscow, and that was some direct planning by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Mr. Roberts said. “I am not surprised, however, by Russian spying. I don’t want to cause a major flap here, but that’s what they do.”

Mr. Roberts pointed out that Saddam ignored the reported advice from the spy.

“Saddam Hussein just didn’t get it in regards to the invasion whether we would be successful or not,” he said. “He’s an egomaniac.”

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