U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington will ask Russia about allegations that Moscow provided Iraq with intelligence on U.S. military movements at the start of the Iraq war.
The allegations surfaced in a Defense Department report last week. The report included Iraqi documents that say Russia was giving Saddam Hussein's government sensitive intelligence information.
Speaking on U.S. television, Rice said she could not confirm or cast doubt on the allegations. But she said she did not want to assume that the material was passed on by the Kremlin itself.
She added that U.S. officials take the report very seriously, and will raise the issue with Moscow. Russia has denied the allegations.
Rice also said the Pentagon could withdraw what she called "a significant number" of U.S. troops from Iraq within the year, if Iraqi forces can increase responsibility for security.
Rice said such a draw-down is entirely likely if Iraqi security forces continue to develop. Last week President Bush said it would be up to future U.S. presidents to decide when to pull out American forces from Iraq, sparking speculation in Washington about how long the deployment could last.
Rice said military commanders will continue to make decisions about troop numbers based on conditions on the ground.
Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.