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Russia: Moscow Denies Report Of Secret Deal With Iraq

Moscow, 12 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russia today rejected a U.S. newspaper report that it had supplied Iraq with sensitive equipment that could be used to develop biological weapons. Citing unnamed sources, the "Washington Post" today said UN inspectors in Iraq had discovered confidential documents on a Russian-Iraqi deal which included the sale to Baghdad of a huge fermentation tank, which was ostensibly designed to produce animal feed but could also be used to produce germ warfare.

The Post said UN officials were uncertain whether the vessel was ever delivered. It said the UN had requested infromation from Moscow on the matter six weeks ago but had received no reply.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov told a press conference that Moscow "resolutely rejects" such "crude allegations, which distort reality." Russia, Tarasov said, "had never struck any deals with Iraq that violate UN sanctions" and had never delivered to Baghdad "any equipment or materials" that could be used in illegal ways.

Tarasov went on to say that the Post article was an attempt to cast a shadow over the activities of Russian experts in UN weapons inspectors teams. Tarasov also said the appearance of the Post article now was "far from accidental."

Moscow is seeking to diplomatically resolve a crisis over Iraq's refusal to allow UN arms inspectors full access to suspected weapons sites while the U.S. has threatened military strikes if Baghdad does not back down.