U.S. Protests Russian Arms Sales to Iraq

Russia Prepared Iraq With High-Tech Equipment, Weaponry

Sun March 23, 2003 10:38 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Sunday it had protested to Moscow about reports that Russian firms have sold Iraq antitank missiles, night vision goggles and jamming gear.
A State Department spokeswoman said Moscow's response had not been satisfactory.

U.S. and British forces are fighting Iraq in an effort to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and to find and destroy Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has denied it has such weapons.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the United States recently delivered a protest to the Russian government for refusing to stop Russian arms dealers from providing illegal weapons and assistance to the Iraqi military.

The newspaper cited Bush administration sources as saying one Russian company was helping the Iraqi military to deploy electronic jamming equipment against U.S. planes and bombs and two others have sold antitank missiles and thousands of night-vision goggles in violation of U.N. sanctions.

The sources told the newspaper Moscow had ignored U.S. concerns about the potential threat to U.S. forces.

"We regard this as a very serious matter," State Department spokeswoman Brenda Greenberg said. "We thus have raised this issue with the Russian government a number of times, including at senior levels and particularly over the past two weeks. The response so far has not been satisfactory.

"We hope that the responsible Russian agencies will take our concerns seriously," she said. "We are very concerned about reports that Russian firms are selling militarily sensitive equipment to Iraq. Such equipment in the hands of the Iraqi military may pose a direct threat to U.S. and coalition armed forces."

Greenberg declined to say if the Washington Post report was accurate, saying she could not discuss intelligence matters.