Italy Probe Unearths Huge Iraq Arms Deal

Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a months long trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black- market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command—a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.

Why these officials resorted to "black" channels and where the weapons were headed is unclear.