Washington enraged by Russian weapon sales to Iraq, Moscow denies
The US State Department claims that three private Russian firms are involved in illicit sales of sensitive military equipment to Iraq, including antitank guided missiles, thousands of night-vision goggles and half-dozen global positioning system (GPS) jamming devices, the Washington Post reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov adamantly denied the American accusations and stressed that his country had not supplied Iraq with any prohibited hardware in breach of UN sanctions. "No fact supporting the Americans' anxiety has been found," Ivanov stated.
Russian analysts quoted by AP suggested that the American accusations were an attempt to discredit and pressure Russia, who together with France had offered the strongest opposition to the use of force against Iraq.
Two of the firms involved were identified as KBP Tula, manufacturer of the Kornet antitank guided missiles and Aviaconversiya, whose technicians, US officials believe, are currently in Baghdad aiding the Iraqi military install and operate electronic systems designed to interfere with aircraft and ground forces navigation systems and to a lesser degree guided bombs. Both firms’ denied the reports.
US President George W. Bush delivered an official protest to Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday, March 22, demanding the Moscow put an immediate stop to any ongoing assistance by Russian arms dealers to the Iraqi military, that could pose an imminent threat to coalition forces.
White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said Monday at a White House briefing that the US “has credible evidence that Russian companies have provided assistance and prohibited hardware to the Iraqi regime.” Since June 2002, Moscow has reportedly dismissed repeated appeals by senior Bush administration officials to tighten its export controls and crack down on arms sales and technology transfers to countries considers state sponsors of terrorism by the Bush administration. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)