German spies offered help to Saddam in run-up to war
By David Harrison in Baghdad
Germany's intelligence services attempted to build closer links to Saddam's secret service during the build-up to war last year, documents from the bombed Iraqi intelligence HQ in Baghdad obtained by The Telegraph reveal.
Documents recovered from Iraqi intelligence HQ in Baghdad
They show that an agent named as Johannes William Hoffner, described as a "new German representative in Iraq" who had entered the country under diplomatic cover, attended a meeting with Lt Gen Taher Jalil Haboosh, the director of Iraq's intelligence service.
During the meeting, on January 29, 2002, Lt Gen Haboosh says that the Iraqis are keen to have a relationship with Germany's intelligence agency "under diplomatic cover", adding that he hopes to develop that relationship through Mr Hoffner.
The German replies: "My organisation wants to develop its relationship with your organisation."
In return, the Iraqis offered to give lucrative contracts to German companies if the Berlin government helped prevent an American invasion of the country.
The revelations come a week after The Telegraph reported that Russia had spied for the Iraqis, passing them intelligence about a meeting between Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister. Both the British and Italian governments have launched investigations.
The meeting between the Iraqi and German agents took place some six months before Chancellor Schröder's Social Democrat-led government began its policy of direct opposition to the idea of an American/British-led war against Iraq. The policy was adopted in the heat of last year's German general election campaign, at a time when the Social Democrats were widely predicted to lose the contest. Mr Schröder was re-elected as Chancellor last September, largely because of the popularity of his government's outspoken opposition to the war against Iraq. The apparently verbatim account of the meeting between Lt Gen Haboosh and Mr Hoffner was among documents recovered by The Telegraph in the rubble of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, which was heavily bombed.
During the meeting, Lt Gen Haboosh tells the German agent that Iraq has "big problems" with Britain and the United States. "We have problems with Britain because it occupied Iraq for 60 years and with America because of its aggression for 11 years," he says.
He adds, however, that Iraq has no problems with Germany and suggests that Germany will be rewarded with lucrative contracts if it offers international support to Iraq. "When the American conspiracy is finished, we will make a calculation for each state that helps Iraq in its crisis."
He also urges Mr Hoffner to lobby the German government to raise its diplomatic mission in Baghdad to full ambassadorial level. Mr Hoffner says that it would be a decision for the German foreign ministry, but Germany's diplomatic presence in the Iraqi capital made it easier for him to enter Iraq because he was able to use diplomatic cover.
Last night, a spokesman for the German government said it was "well known" that it had been offered lucrative contracts by Baghdad providing it maintained an anti-Iraq war stance. "Iraq made these kinds of promises before the war and praised Germany for its position," he said.
Iraqi police handed Saddam Hussein's finance minister to American forces after capturing him in Baghdad, raising hopes of tracing billions of dollars the ousted dictator may have spirited away. Hikmat Ibrahim al-Azzawi, who was also a deputy prime minister, is number 45 on America's list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
I know that Germany would not sell out the United States to be close to Iraq. That's just not logical. That said, this is still going to be an embaressment for the German Government.