Saddam info: US comments upsets Russia

Russia protested US charges on Sunday that they are withholding intelligence on the whereabouts of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko

    Moscow also angrily responded to comments made by US Ambassador Alexander Vershbow on Saturday.

    Vershbow suggested that Moscow was privy to information, and had not passed it on their American counterparts, and also added that Washington could not guarantee the safety of Russia’s embassy in Baghdad as it did not regards the staff as diplomats.

    "We don't know what information Russia has, and which sources of information may be available to Russia, but we hope that as our cooperation develops, Russia will give us such information if it finds it," he was quoted as saying.

    Vershbow also said the United States considered it "unwise" for diplomats to set up missions in Baghdad because there was no Iraqi government to grant diplomatic privileges.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Vershbow's comments implied Moscow was not sharing intelligence with Washington, the Interfax and RIA news agencies reported.

    "The ambassador should realise that the level of partnership reached between Russia and the USA is characterised by the presence of reliable channels of dialogue and the exchange of
    intelligence, including confidential intelligence, and that to address us on this subject through the media is inappropriate," he was quoted as saying on Sunday.

    Speaking to state television Yakovenko added that Washington was obliged to grant diplomatic immunity to its Baghdad embassy staff under international law.

    US embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

    Differences aside

    The former Cold War rivals had differing views of the US-led war on Iraq, but both Moscow and Washington have since publicly put their differences aside.

    But Yakovenko repeated Russia’s position that the United Nations should oversee the reconstruction of Iraq.

    "As we have told our US partners on more than one occasion, this process would be assisted by bringing it as quickly as possible under the aegis of the UN."

    Russia, whose economic ties with Iraq date back to the Cold War era of superpower rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, was one of few countries not to have closed its embassy during the war in Iraq.

    Russia's mission in Baghdad was the focus of several rows between Moscow and Washington during the war. Moscow protested against air strikes near its mission and later accused US forces of firing on a diplomatic convoy leaving Iraq.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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