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Russia spied for Iraq - paper

Harrison said he saw the documents in the information ministry, which has been heavily bombed.
Harrison said he saw the documents in the information ministry, which has been heavily bombed.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Documents discovered in Iraq indicate Russia helped Saddam Hussein's intelligence services in the months leading up to the war, according to a British newspaper.

Moscow passed on information gathered from western countries about the determination of the United States and Britain to launch military action, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

A spokesman for the Russian foreign intelligence service declined to comment on the Sunday Telegraph story, telling CNN: "We do not comment on unsubstantiated and unfounded assertions."

The paper's reporter David Harrison told CNN that after last week's fall of the regime he went into the bombed and partially burned-out information ministry in Baghdad where he saw documents indicating Russia's assistance.

"We went through cupboards, files and drawers and turned up some extraordinary information about relations between Iraq and Moscow.

"One of the choicest things we found was evidence that the Russians spied on [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair and passed the information on to the Iraqis. I discovered a report that discussed sending troops to Iraq. This was dated from March 5 of last year.

"The conversation recorded by the Russians -- presumably illegally -- concerned the sending of troops to Iraq. Tony Blair told the Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi he was not prepared to do this while Britain still had troops in Afghanistan ... that this was too soon."

Harrison said he also saw reports about conversations between U.S. President George W. Bush and leaders of other countries about his willingness to go to war and how important it was for Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions on disarmament.

On November 8, 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.

Bush declared on March 17 that Iraq was in breach of the resolution and three days later the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq with the intention, Bush declared, of ousting Saddam Hussein from power.

On the eve of the war in Iraq, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message to Saddam urging him to step down, it was revealed last week.

Putin called former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov on March 17 and asked him to travel to Baghdad to pass the message to Saddam, Primakov told reporters on Friday.

"Vladimir Putin said that everything must be done in order to avert an armed invasion of Iraq, because it invariably would lead to large numbers of casualties among the civilian population," Primakov said.

Primakov said he told Saddam that, if he "loves his country and his people and wants to spare it these casualties, he should resign."

At the end of the meeting, Saddam patted Primakov on the shoulder and departed, promising to cooperate more actively with U.N. weapons inspectors, Interfax news agency reported.


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