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#9 - JRL 7139
Russia denies Saddam hiding in its Baghdad embassy
April 9, 2003

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia has denied reports that it was sheltering missing Iraqi 
President Saddam Hussein in its embassy in Baghdad. 

"This type of claim absolutely does not and cannot correspond with reality," 
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement. 

"This is just another attempt to put our Baghdad embassy under threat," he 

The speaker of the Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri suggested earlier 
Wednesday that Saddam could have found refuge in Russia's Baghdad embassy, as 
US forces took control of the Iraqi capital. 

"Saddam Hussein could have found refuge in the Russian embassy in Baghdad," 
Berri told journalists, without elaborating. 

A convoy carrying Russian ambassador to Iraq (news - web sites) Vladimir 
Titorenko, along with around two dozen staff members and journalists, came 
under fire Sunday as it headed out of Baghdad towards Syria. 

"Any attack against our embassy will be considered as a serious violation of 
the Vienna convention on diplomatic priveldge and immunity," Yakovenko said. 

Titorenko has accused US forces of deliberately shooting at the convoy. 

Berri pointed out that Titorenko had returned to Baghdad from Syria -- 
allegedly to bring out an embassy driver wounded in the incident and a 
diplomat who stayed to look after him -- following a visit to Moscow by US 
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice). 

Rumors circulated ahead of the start of the US-led war in Iraq last month 
that Russia was helping negotiate a deal with Saddam, offering him exile in 
Russia if he agreed to step down from power to avert war. 
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