RUSSIAN DEFENSE OFFICIALS PROTEST U.S. TYING RUSSIA TO IRAQ'S MISSING EXPLOSIVES

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MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Defense Ministry has delivered protest over the allegation by John Shaw, the Pentagon's Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security, that the Russian military helped Iraq move out hundreds of tons of explosives.

The U.S. Embassy's Military Attache was summoned Friday to the Russian Defense Ministry, where protest was delivered to him in connection with Mr. Shaw's statement, a ministry source told RIA Novosti. The ministry's press office refused to comment.

The Undersecretary of Defense said in a recent interview with The Washington Times that the Russian military had assisted Iraqi special services in moving several hundred tons of explosives from a military facility only days before the launch of the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq last March.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry described the allegations as "absurd and far-fetched." "The media reports media about Russia's alleged involvement in moving some explosives out of Iraq are absurd and far-fetched. This could not have happened physically as all Russian servicemen and women left Iraq a long time before the launch of the U.S-British campaign," Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, chief spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry, said in a RIA interview. According to him, the allegations are false.

According to RIA Novosti's correspondent in Beirut, Saraya al-Islam, a militant group operating in Iraq, claims it was able to obtain some of the missing explosives not without assistance of the American military.

"We want the Iraqis and the Americans to know that thanks to Allah and to the cooperativeness of quite a few officers and men from U.S. special services, our fighters were able to get a large amount of explosive material previously stored at the al-Qaqaa installation under American troops' guard," the group says in a statement carried Friday by the Saudi newspaper al-Vatan.

Saraya al-Islam is threatening to use the explosive material against "American forces and their associates" in case they launch an offensive against an Iraqi city.

Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported to the United Nations security Council on the disappearance of 380 tons of highly explosive material from the al-Qaqaa installation, located south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

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