US President George W. Bush spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone Monday to discuss US concerns about arms sales to Iraq by Russian firms, the White House said.
They "discussed the United States' concerns involving prohibited hardware that has been transferred from Russian companies to Iraq," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said at a regular press briefing.
"President Putin assured president Bush that he would look intoit," Fleischer told reporters.
"They both reiterated their strong support for the US-Russia partnership, and agree to continue, despite the differences that the two have over Iraq," he added.
Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesman said the Russian president warned Bush during their telephone conversation to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq.
"Putin confirmed Russia's stated position on Iraq settlement and stressed the need to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the region," the spokesman said.
Earlier in the day, Fleischer told reporters that the United States has "credible evidence that Russian companies have providedassistance and prohibited hardware to the Iraqi regime, things such as night vision goggles, GPS jammers and antitank guided missiles."
"These actions are disturbing and we have made our concerns clear to the Russian government. We've asked the Russian government that any such ongoing assistance cease immediately," hesaid.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denied as rumor that Russian firms had sold military equipment to Iraq, saying an investigation into the claims had yielded no results.
"Russia strictly observes its international obligations. It didnot sell any equipment, including military equipment, in violationof the sanctions regime," Ivanov told a press conference in Moscow.
The US State Department has alleged that Russian companies soldsensitive military equipment to Iraq in the run-up to the US-led war against Iraq, saying that it had raised the issue with the Russian government a number of times.