Top-secret Iraqi intelligence documents found in Baghdad show that Russia funneled spy secrets to Saddam Hussein and that Moscow was still training Iraqi spies last fall, in violation of U.N. sanctions, reports say.
The captured documents also show that the Kremlin gave Saddam lists of assassins who could do "hits" in the West and that Iraq and Russia signed deals to share intelligence and help get "visas" so agents could go to Western countries, the London Telegraph reported.
One document also suggests that Russia believed Iraq had a nuclear-weapons program -- at the same time the Kremlin was publicly denying it.
The Arabic documents -- the first in a likely flood -- show cooperation between Russia and Iraq that's far more extensive and recent than previously reported. There were even copies of Christmas cards exchanged by Iraqi and Russian intelligence chiefs, the report adds.
A U.S. official described the reports as "plausible."
If true, they could raise grave doubts about U.S.-Russian relations and President Bush's belief that he looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin's "soul" and knew he could trust Russian leader.
They also raise new questions about Russia's motives when it formed an axis of the unwilling with France and Germany to block U.S.-British efforts to have the U.N. Security Council to get tough with Saddam.
Bush has complained to Putin that Russian companies sold Iraq military gear like satellite jammers, intended to interfere with U.S. weapons, and anti-tank weapons, possibly funneled through Syria. Russia denied it.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported documents found in personnel files of Iraqi intelligence agents show they got spy training as recently as last September from the "Special Training Center" in Moscow, complete with diplomas. One agent's file -- found at an annex to Iraq's Mukhabarat spy agency -- showed he completed "acoustic surveillance" training last Sept. 15, and got a diploma with Russia's double-eagle insignia, the report said.
Such training would violate U.N. sanctions.
Other documents -- mostly intelligence reports from anonymous agents and the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow -- show that Russia and Iraq also agreed to exchange information on Usama bin Laden, the Telegraph said.
One report, dated March 5, 2002, and marked "Subject -- SECRET" is from an Iraqi intelligence agent who relates that a Russian colleague gave him details of a private chat between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi that took place Feb. 15.
Blair "referred to the negative things decided by the United States over Baghdad" -- which Bush presumably told him in private -- but Blair refused to take military action in Iraq until after a new government was set up in Afghanistan.
A document dated March 12, 2002, says the Russians warned Iraq that if it refused to comply with the United Nations, it would give the United States "a cause to destroy any nuclear weapons," the Telegraph said.