A US defense official has echoed Germany's denial that it provided American commanders with intelligence on Saddam Hussein's plans to defend Baghdad one month before US-led forces invaded Iraq.
Did German spies aid the US course in Iraq?
A New York Times article stating that two German spies in Baghdad had obtained and passed on a copy of Saddam's Baghdad defense plan was untrue, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told reporters at a tightly-packed press conference.
"The claim that the two BND officers had acquired Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital and handed it to the US one month before the war's outbreak, as it states in the New York Times report, is false," he said, referring to the German foreign intelligence agency or BND.
"The BND, and with it the German government, were unaware of such a plan until now, nor was the BND aware of a meeting of Saddam Hussein with his commanders on December 18, 2002, as reported in The New York Times."
Wilhelm was referring to a meeting, according to the report, at which Saddam and the top Iraqi brass allegedly developed a plan to deploy his most loyal troops.
The explosive article, which cited a classified report by the US military, asserted that "in providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged".
German intelligence officers come under increasing scrutingy over their role in Iraq
The center-left government under former chancellor Gerhard Schröder vocally opposed the US-led war in Iraq, although it publicly acknowledged providing limited assistance for the US military at the time.
Those efforts including guarding US bases in Germany to free up US troops, stationing German soldiers capable of dealing with a chemical weapons attack in Kuwait and supporting NATO plans to send AWACS surveillance planes and Patriot missiles to Turkey.
The German government released a report from an internal inquiry last week stating that the two German spies in Baghdad provided intelligence to the US military during the Iraq war. But the account rejected media reports that the agents had helped select bombing targets.
The BND said Monday that all the reports written by the two agents during their stay in Baghdad between February 15, 2003 and May 2, 2003 had been presented to a parliamentary supervisory committee investigating the officers' role in January and included no mention of a Baghdad defense plan.
On Monday, a US defense official denied the claims in the New York Times article. "The allegation that the German intelligence gave information on Saddam's war plans to the Americans is not contained in the report," the anonymous official said.
US troops in Iraq
A spokesman for the US Joint Forces Command, Navy Captain Hal Pittman earlier acknowledged that the command had conducted a study of the war from the Iraqi perspective, but stressed he was unaware of any references to Germany providing information of Iraq's war plans.
The newspaper report cited the study as saying that two German agents in Baghdad had obtained the Iraqi war plan and passed it up their chain of command from where another German intelligence official in Qatar gave a copy of the plan to a US Defense Intelligence Agency official assigned to the wartime headquarters of General Tommy Franks, commander of the US Central Command.
"A dramatic turn"
An inquiry into the exact role of the two German agents stationed in Baghdad during the war on Iraq has met with dissatisfaction from two of Germany's three opposition parties. They are calling instead for a full parliamentary probe, which would allow government officials to be questioned.
Calls are growing louder for a full parliamentary probe
Max Stadler, a deputy with the liberal Free Democrats, the third opposition party whose support would be needed to launch such an investigation, said that if The New York Times report were true it would mark a "dramatic turn".
The party plans to decide whether or not to back the probe next week.