MOSCOW (AP) - A likely appointee to the interim Iraqi government said Belarus should be called to account for allegedly providing military aid to Saddam Hussein in violation of United Nations sanctions.
"We have documents about this, and in any case we will raise this question in the U.N. Security Council and demand punishment for those Belarusian bureaucrats who took part in violating sanctions," Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National Accord, was quoted as saying in an interview published Tuesday in Vremya Novostei, a liberal independent daily.
Allawi is one of five anti-Saddam leaders with whom U.S. officials have been consulting over the formation of Iraq's interim government and is expected to be one of its leaders.
U.S. officials have previously accused the Belarusian government of providing military equipment to Iraq, and a former Belarus defense minister, Pavel Kazlovski, said Belarus could have shipped arms to Iraq under the cover of humanitarian aid. Belarus had developed such close ties with the Iraqi government that it even made the short-list of countries where analysts and diplomats expected Saddam could seek refuge.
Belarusian officials vehemently denied the allegations of violating the sanctions, which were imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
A senior U.S. administration official told reporters in Moscow on Monday that there were indications of Belarusian and Ukrainian aid to Iraq. He said some sanctions already had been imposed against the two countries and more were under consideration. He said there was no evidence of Russia's collaboration - a point Allawi backed up.
However, Allawi said some of Iraq's $12 billion debt to Russia was for illegal deals and would not be recognized.
Allawi pointed in particular to former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whom he accused of defending Saddam "for personal profit." Primakov, a Middle East expert, Soviet-era diplomat and spymaster who was a Pravda newspaper correspondent for the region during the Cold War, knew the Iraqi leader for decades. Russia dispatched him to Baghdad several times to try to avert war - first in 1990, then this year.
"We have almost full certainty that Primakov received certain sums from Saddam for this (defending him)," Allawi said, without elaborating.
The interview, conducted in Baghdad, did not say what Allawi's allegations were based on.
Rumors about Primakov's alleged self-interest in Iraq have floated around for years. Russian Foreign Ministry officials, including Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, have vehemently denied them.
Primakov's office was closed for Russia's May holidays and neither he nor his spokeswoman could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Allawi also said that all the government contracts with Russian companies are now terminated. Many Russian oil companies have hoped to resume work in postwar Iraq; Russian analysts estimate the value of their contracts at tens of billions of dollars.
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