US STATE DEPARTMENT REFERS ALL QUESTIONS REGARDING PUTIN'S STATEMENT ON SADDAM'S PLANS TO AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

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WASHINGTON, June 19 (RIA Novosti's Arkady Orlov) - The US State Department has referred to American intelligence agencies all questions regarding President Putin's statement that Moscow had passed on to Washington information disclosing the Saddam regime's plans to commit terrorist acts against the United States.

The US State Department's deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said that the exchange of information regarding Saddam Hussein's plans to organize terrorist attack against the United States had been communicated through the intelligence channels and therefore journalists should address their questions to intelligence agencies.

"We have read the same reports about Russian intelligence services passing on to their American counterparts information disclosing Saddam Hussein regime's plans to attack the United States. The State Department has no information on this account that I could share with you because it (the information) had not been communicated via the State Department. I would advise you to address the appropriate intelligence agencies," he said at a Friday briefing in Washington.

President Putin said on Friday in Astana (Kazakhstan) that after the September 11 developments and up to the launch of the US-led operation in Iraq Russian intelligence agencies had repeatedly obtained information about the Saddam regime's plans to commit terrorist attacks both on American soil and elsewhere. "This information was indeed passed on through appropriate channels to the American colleagues," the Russian head of state said.

"I could say that the USA and Russia have been maintaining very good and close cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism and that in the past we worked well together both in information exchange and other areas, but with regard to the specific statement in question I have no information to share with you," Mr. Ereli added.

In turn, the White House deputy press secretary Claire Buchanan also declined to make any comments on the issue.

"As you know, we have been maintaining cooperation with the Russian Government, including in the sphere of intelligence, but we do not comment on intelligence-related issues. You can turn to the CIA in case they have more information for you. As for us, we do not comment on specific intelligence-related issues," Claire Buchanan told journalists covering President Bush's ongoing visit to the State of Nevada.

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