Germany has asked the US for more information about an alleged secret plan by Saddam Hussein to defend Baghdad before the war after a US paper reported its spies had passed it on to American forces.
Did German intelligence help the US to prepare the war in Iraq?
This week The New York Times reported that German intelligence agents had obtained a copy of the plan and passed it on to the US weeks before the invasion.
The report, which Germany has vehemently denied, has triggered huge controversy and calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
The newspaper report has caused an uproar in Germany
On Friday, Germany still stuck to its denial but a government spokesman said Berlin had asked Washington for more details about the affair. The German government is hoping in particularly that the US can shed light on the classified military study on which the Times report was based and whether it included a sketch map that was printed by the paper.
"We have renewed our request to the American side and expressed the wish: if you can, give us the information whether such a secret study exists, is there a study with sketches, where do you believe such a sketch came from?" Steg said.
He added that German authorities were currently in contact with several US officials to find out what the "alleged secret military study" was all about.
Steg, much like Germany's intelligence service (BND), reiterated that there was no direct contact between its agents in Baghdad and US authorities.
No aid i n selecti n g bombi n g targets
Germany, under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, vocally opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. But a series of revelations in recent weeks has raised uncomfortable questions about its exact role in the war.
A classified report by the German parliament, the Bundestag, parts of which were released to the public, underlined that German intelligence agents in Iraq mainly supplied information on civilian sites that the Americans should avoid bombing.
Berlin has also admitted that its spies provided descriptions of the Iraqi military and police presence in Baghdad, but has strongly rejected allegations that the information was used to select bombing targets.
Doubts about authe n ticity of sketch
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein
On Friday Steg stressed that the German government wasn't aware of the secret Saddam Hussein defense plan and thus couldn't have passed it to Washington.
"You can't pass on something that you don't know," Steg said.
Steg also raised doubts over the authenticity of the diagram printed in The New York Times.
"I don't honestly know if a city of many millions of people like Baghdad could develop a defense concept on the basis of such a sketch," he said. "I have the greatest doubts."
Parliame n tary probe?
The report is expected to be discussed at a meeting next Monday of the German parliamentary committee in charge of monitoring the secret services.
The outcome of the meeting will decide the fate of a parliamentary probe that the opposition Greens and Left Party are pushing for. The free-market liberals (FDP), the largest opposition party, have said they'll make up their minds after the meeting of the parliamentary committee.