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Putin denies Russian arms sales to Iraq

'Groundless' allegations can only hurt relations, he tells Bush

From Jill Dougherty
CNN Moscow Bureau

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russian companies are not supplying military equipment to Iraq.

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Moscow is dismissing U.S. allegations that Russia is involved in illegal shipments of military technology to Iraq. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports.
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has told President Bush that Russian companies are not supplying sensitive military equipment to Iraq.

Putin made the denial in a telephone conversation Monday evening. He told Bush that the allegations can only harm relations between the two countries.

The United States accuses privately owned Russian companies of supplying Iraq with antitank missiles, night-vision goggles and radio-jamming equipment that can interfere with planes and bombs.

The White House said it has received reports that a Russian company that produces jamming equipment has been aiding Iraqi military forces, possibly including sending Russian technicians to Iraq.

According to a statement, Putin told Bush that the allegations are "groundless." He stressed that Russia takes such concerns seriously and has said many times that no such aid is taking place.

One Russian company, KBP Tula, accused by the U.S. State Department of supplying Iraq with "Kornet" antitank missiles, said such sales could not have taken place because sales to other countries are "under strict Russian government control.

"The possibility of signing any nonapproved contracts or, what's more, supplying [such equipment] is entirely excluded," the company said.

KBP Tula said it has "never in all the time it's been working broken any international agreements or treaties."

The company suggested that the United States is raising the subject in an attempt to "justify the failure of U.S. armed forces in the first stage of military action in Iraq" and is trying to "complicate the KBP's supplying armaments which exceed the quality of U.S. arms."

"We do agree that the Kornet missile is able to successfully oppose any tanks or motorized infantry divisions," the company added, "but if they were in Iraq in any quantity, then the U.S. infantry would be taking greater losses than they are now."

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