The same day President George W. Bush demanded that Iraq readmit United Nations weapons inspectors, Russian and Iraqi officials were meeting in Moscow seeking ways to strengthen relations between Moscow and Baghdad, according to a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

U.N. weapons inspectors were pulled out of Iraq in 1998. The inspectors sought to prevent the Iraqi government from developing weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov stated that his nation is examining ways of further developing both economic and political ties with Iraq, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Saltanov made his remarks as Bush threw down the gauntlet to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Responding to U.S. contentions that Baghdad assisted Osama bin Laden’s network, Saltanov asserted that “there is no proof of Iraqi involvement” in the Sept. 11 terror attack, according to a report in the Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov denied that – outside of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan – there was any conclusive evidence proving a connection between a particular nation and terrorists. Ivanov declared that “the civilized world still has not found the other countries hiding the terrorists,” Corriere della Sera reported.

Moscow not only does not acknowledge Iraqi involvement in terrorism, but it is pressing for the removal of sanctions leveled against Baghdad following Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Relations between Moscow and Baghdad have been traditionally close, dating back as far as the Soviet era.

In April, 2001, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The discussion gave a “fresh impetus to relations between the two countries,” according to the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Despite disclaimers from Moscow and Baghdad, reports regularly appear indicating that the regime of Saddam Hussein is tied to terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction.

In October, police in the Czech Republic verified that Sept. 11 terrorist Mohammed Atta met three to four times with Ahmed Samir al-Ahani, then a counsel for the Iraqi government stationed in Prague, according to a report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Ahani was later expelled from Prague for engaging in activities “incompatible with his status as a diplomat,” – the diplomatic terminology used to indicate espionage – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty stated.

Iraq is also suspected of receiving uranium originating in Eastern Europe, according to an earlier report in

One of the most thorough expos?s of the Iraqi regime’s weapons program was given to the West by Khidhir Hamza, a former top scientist for Saddam Hussein.

Hamza recounted his activities and escape from Iraq in his book, “Saddam’s Bombmaker.” Hamza leaves no doubt as to the Iraqi regime’s determination to develop and manufacture weapons of mass destruction.

Richard Butler, the former head of the U.N. weapons-inspection program in Iraq, stated that “there were remaining weapons” when the weapons inspectors were pulled out of Iraq, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The U.N. Security Council – though hostile to the work of the weapons inspectors – later came to the same conclusion, Butler noted.

In addition to sponsoring secret meetings with terrorists, involvement in shadowy transfers of nuclear material and the documented development of atomic, chemical and biological weapons, Iraq is linked with the training of terrorists.

The British Broadcasting Corporation carried a report that Iraqi intelligence operated a secret base in Salmon Pak, south of Baghdad, where members of bin Laden’s al-Qaida network received training.

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