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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Denies Iraq Arms Sales Report

KIEV -- Responding to a recent news report, Ukrainian officials repeated Wednesday their strong denial of allegations that the country has violated UN sanctions and sold arms to Iraq.

Citing arms control experts and a tape made by a President Leonid Kuchma's former bodyguard, the Financial Times reported Tuesday that "Iraq is exploiting its growing links with Ukraine in an effort to obtain weapons technologies." The paper said the Ukrainian government "has been taking an increasingly active role in organizing direct ties between Ukrainian companies and Iraq."

Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko told journalists after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson that Ukraine's bilateral cooperation with Iraq is based on economic grounds, calling the news report "pure speculation."

"Ukraine, as a founding member of the United Nations, cannot even allow itself to think about the possibility of violating UN sanctions," Zlenko said. "We are a young democracy ... and it is extremely crucial for us to upgrade our democratic image at a proper level."

Earlier in the day, Ukraine's Security and Defense Council accused the Financial Times of publishing false information aimed at damaging Ukraine's reputation as an international partner.

"The goal of the authors and those who ordered this article is obvious: to discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the international community at the very moment that it is officially promoting its intention to deepen cooperation with NATO," the council said in a statement, according to Interfax.

The council also noted a June statement by U.S. government officials saying they had no verified information about Ukraine's alleged arms supplies to Iraq.

The article reignited a long-simmering scandal about Ukraine's alleged illegal ties with Iraq. In January, Ukrainian lawmakers appealed to prosecutors to investigate media claims based on the bodyguard's tapes that Kuchma and his aides were involved in arms supplies to Baghdad.

Kuchma and other officials have strongly denied the accusations, and prosecutors dismissed the charges.

NATO's Robertson said Kuchma assured him that a full investigation will be made into the new allegations.

"The Ukrainian authorities have made it clear to me that they would never be involved in anything that broke the United Nations sanctions regime with Iraq," Robertson said in comments to reporters after two days of meetings with Ukrainian officials in Kiev.