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Pentagon desperate to build pretext for attacking Iraq

A. Iraq 'behind US anthrax outbreaks', Observer, October 14th
B. Bread not bombs by Nick Cohen, Observer, October 14th
C. Excerpt from: 'You can't talk... you've got to go and beat them'
Exclusive interview: Kamal Ahmed, political editor, talks to Prime Minister
Tony Blair, Observer, October 14th
D. The suicide bomber and the Baghdad conspiracy, Independent on Sunday,
October 14th

The Pentagon and its allies are desperately trying to build a pretext for
attacking Iraq, as evidenced by stories A. and D. below. It's now a
two-pronged attack with attempts being made to link Iraq to the anthrax
'outbreak' in the US as well as the September 11th atrocities.

As regards the anthrax outbreaks, no evidence is provided in A. to link
these incidents to Iraq: simply the fact that 'US intelligence believes that
Iraq does have the capability' to produce anthrax in its airborne form,
together with various unsubstantiated rumours.

In B. Nick Cohen writes that 'tolerance of starvation is intolerable' (Bread
not bombs, 14th October) but he then goes and ruins this by denying
share of responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Indeed,
according to Cohen 'Blair said, quite rightly, that hunger in Iraq was the
fault of Saddam Hussein.'

Last year, one of the world’s leading human rights organisations, Human
Rights Watch - who certainly have no love for Saddam Hussein - admonished
the US Government to ‘stop pretending that the sanctions have nothing to do
with the dire public health crisis confronting millions of Iraqis.’ Nick
Cohen would do well to take their advice.

C. reproduces an excerpt from an interview with Tony Blair. Mr Blair's
references to 'a new sanctions regime which would allow us to get money more
directly through to the Iraqi people' is presumbly a confused reference to
the British 'smart' sanctions proposal (which the Economist described as 'an
aspirin where sugery is called for'). However, he appears to be getting this
muddled up with the issues surrounding the 'cash component' (which was
authorised in some form in UN SCR 1284 of December '99). Not for the first
time Mr Blair gives every indication of having only the slightest of grasps
of the topic at hand.

Finally, D. is, so far as I can make out, pure propaganda. Presumably part
of the desperate attempt by hawks in Washington to build a pretext for
attacking Iraq. Despite Chris Blackhurst's claim that 'there is mounting
evidence of an Iraqi role in the suicide attacks', a careful reading of the
piece shows that no credible evidence is actually produced to back this
assertion (though various 'facts' sourced to anonymous 'investigators' are

Note, in particular, that the meeting(s) between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi
intelligence official in the Czech Republic last year (and possibly later)
came out almost one month ago. Yet, even after these came to light the chief
of Israeli Intelligence (who was well aware of them) told the press: 'I
don't see a direct link between Iraq and the hijackings ... there is no
Iraqi angle or infrastructure that we can point to at this stage'
(Independent, 24th September 2001). If Israeli intelligence has changed its
mind about this in the meantime, Blackhurst fails to mention it (though he
does take the time to tell us that 'Israeli officials have constantly talked
up Iraq's involvement').

Ironically, Blackhurst is also the author of another piece in today's IoS
entitled 'The War of Propaganda' in which he bemoans the fact that 'Downing
Street and the military have never had it so good' and that 'there is no-one
to check the veracity of allied briefings'!

Best wishes,


PS Letters to the editor should be sent to and by Tuesday evening at the latest.


Iraq 'behind US anthrax attacks'
[I've taken this directly from the Observer web-site. This piece has also
appeared under the less overtly propagandistic title 'US hawks accuse Iraq
over Anthrax'- G]

David Rose and Ed Vulliamy, New York
Sunday October 14, 2001
The Observer

American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York
believe they have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack - and have named
Iraq as prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores.

Their inquiries are adding to what US hawks say is a growing mass of
evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved, possibly indirectly, with the 11
September hijackers.

If investigators' fears are confirmed - and sceptics fear American hawks
could be publicising the claim to press their case for strikes against
Iraq - the pressure now building among senior Pentagon and White House
officials in Washington for an attack may become irresistible.

Plans have been discussed among Pentagon strategists for US air strike
support for armed insurrections against Saddam by rebel Kurds in the north
and Shia Muslims in the south with a promise of American ground troops to
protect the oilfields of Basra.

Contact has already been made with an Iraqi opposition group based in London
with a view to installing its members as a future government in Baghdad.

Leading US intelligence sources, involved with both the CIA and the Defence
Department, told The Observer that the 'giveaway' which suggests a state
sponsor for the anthrax cases is that the victims in Florida were afflicted
with the airborne form of the disease.

'Making anthrax, on its own, isn't so difficult,' one senior US intelligence
source said. 'But it only begins to become effective as a biological weapon
if they can be made the right size to breathe in. If you can't get airborne
infectivity, you can't use it as a weapon. That is extremely difficult.
There is very little leeway. Most spores are either too big to be suspended
in air, or too small to lodge on the lining of the lungs.'

As claims about an Iraqi link grew, senior health officials in Britain
revealed they warned all the country's GPs last week to be vigilant about
the disease. 'I think we have to be prepared to think the unthinkable,' said
the Government's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Liam Donaldson. The Department of
Health confirmed the Government is conducting an urgent review of Britain's
ability to cope with chemical or biological attacks.

It also emerged last night that three people who worked in the Florida
buildings at the centre of anthrax scares are now in the UK and undergoing
tests for the disease. And in America a letter sent from Malaysia to a
Microsoft office was found to contain traces of anthrax.

In liquid form, anthrax is useless - droplets would fall to the ground,
rather than staying suspended in the air to be breathed by victims. Making
powder needs repeated washings in huge centrifuges, followed by intensive
drying, which requires sealed environments. The technology would cost

US intelligence believes Iraq has the technology and supplies of anthrax
suitable for terrorist use. 'They aren't making this stuff in caves in
Afghanistan,' the CIA source said. 'This is prima facie evidence of the
involvement of a state intelligence agency. Maybe Iran has the capability.
But it doesn't look likely politically. That leaves Iraq.'

Scientists investigating the attacks say the bacteria used is similar to the
'Ames strain' of anthrax originally cultivated at Iowa State University in
the 1950s and later given to labs throughout the world, including Iraq.

According to sources in the Bush administration, investigators are talking
to Egyptian authorities who say members of the al-Qaida network, detained
and interrogated in Cairo, had obtained phials of anthrax in the Czech

Last autumn Mohamed Atta is said by US intelligence officials to have met in
Prague an agent from Iraqi intelligence called Ahmed Samir al-Ahani, a
former consul later expelled by the Czechs for activities not compatible
with his diplomatic mission.

The Czechs are also examining the possibility that Atta met a former
director of Saddam's external secret services, Farouk Hijazi, at a second
meeting in the spring. Hijazi is known to have met Bin Laden.

It was confirmed yesterday that Jim Woolsey, CIA director from 1993 to 1996,
recently visited London on behalf of the hawkish Defence Department to 'firm
up' other evidence of Iraqi involvement in 11 September.

Some observers fear linking Saddam to the terrorist attacks is part of an
agenda being driven by US hawks eager to broaden the war to include Iraq, a
move being resisted by the British government.

The hawks winning the ear of President Bush is assembled around Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and a think tank, the
Defence Policy Advisory Board, dubbed the 'Wolfowitz cabal'.

Their strategy to target Iraq was hammered out at a two-day seminar in
September, of which the dovish Secretary of State Colin Powell had no

The result was a letter to President Bush urging the removal of Saddam as a
precondition to the war. 'Failure to undertake such an effort,' it said,
'will constitute a decisive surrender in the war against terrorism'.

In a swipe at Powell's premium on coalition-building, it continues:
'coalition building has run amok. The point about a coalition is "can it
achieve the right purpose?" not "can you get a lot of members?"'

Administration officials close to the group told The Observer : 'We see this
war as one against the virus of terrorism. If you have bone marrow cancer,
it's not enough to just cut off the patient's foot. You have to do the
complete course of chemotherapy. And if that means embarking on the next
Hundred Years' War, that's what we're doing.'


Bread not bombs
By doing little to avert a famine in Afghanistan, the West is sowing the
seeds for more Islamic hatred

Nick Cohen
Sunday October 14, 2001
The Observer

The bombing of Afghanistan must stop. To say so isn't to appease mass
murderers by pretending they are misunderstood fighters against imperialism.
You can think, as I do, that the sum of human happiness would inflate
exponentially if the Taliban and their Arab allies were driven from power.
You can believe that the atrocities of 11 September changed the world and
made hitherto unthinkable expedients necessary. You can even fall in love
with Tony Blair's mythical America which stood 'side by side with us' in the
Blitz of 1940, rather than staying out of the Second World War until 1941,
and was 'born out of the defeat of slavery', rather than a declaration of
independence by, among others, slave owners.

You can hold all these views simultaneously and still argue that this war is
a moral and political disaster. Its worthwhile ends are unattainable. Its
means are self-defeating. The choice before America and her supporters in
Britain is to back off or inflict a famine on Afghanistan which will kill
tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands and take the case for a just war with

Tolerance of starvation is unconscionable. It dumps supporters of bombing in
the same intellectual wastebasket as those who mutter that America 'had it
coming'. Afghan peasants, like the workers in the World Trade Centre, aren't
strictly culpable, you understand. But if they're in the wrong place under
the wrong government then, somehow, they deserve to die.

I wouldn't expect everyone in a government which employs Jo Moore to be
distracted by ethical arguments. I count many hardened socialists and
pacifists among my friends. For all their fierce anti-Americanism, they were
too filled with shock and sympathy on 11 September to match the seediness of
the propagandist's cry: 'Everyone else thinks the extermination of thousands
is a problem! I see it as an opportunity!'

>From what I hear, though, New Labour is beginning to worry about the
political 'collateral damage'. The formal war aim - the defeat of
terrorism - is a fantasy. More realistically, we might have hoped war would
do the world a favour by bringing justice of a kind to bin Laden and the
Taliban without creating the resentments which will breed further violence.

Starvation in Afghanistan dashes modest hopes. It provides the inspiration
for future suicide bombers while inflaming intelligent Muslim opinion. The
Prime Minister's interviewer on al-Jazeera TV made a comparison I suspect
we're going to hear many times in the coming months. Iraqis are still paying
the price of the Gulf war of 1991, he said. 'They are under sanctions and
about one million Iraqi children died because of famine. Aren't you
repeating the same thing in Afghanistan now?' Blair said, quite rightly,
that hunger in Iraq was the fault of Saddam Hussein. He didn't answer the
Afghanistan question.

FAMINE WAS COMING anyway. Oxfam warned before 11 September that drought and
the economic consequences of a Taliban theocracy which couldn't create a
civilisation worth clashing with would leave 1.9 million Afghans hungry by
the end of the year. Clare Short and her Department for International
Development had been saying for months that Afghanistan was a catastrophe
waiting to happen. Christian Aid spent the summer planning an Afghan appeal
for 15 September. The eradication of the means of life in Afghanistan did
not therefore arrive out of a clear blue sky.

The kamikaze attacks which did halted United Nations food deliveries for
three weeks. They started, stopped again when the bombing began on Sunday,
and then restarted. The UN had 9,200 metric tons of food inside of
Afghanistan yesterday. Officials in the World Food Programme calculate the
country needs 52,000 metric tons from outside a month.

Their horrendous difficulty is not finding supplies. The Bush administration
has belied its reputation for know-nothing callousness by being
exceptionally generous in circumstances which might have induced parsimony,
as, indeed, has Britain. There's plenty of food near the borders. But
getting it in before winter closes the mountain roads next month is a
nightmare. Afghanistan must have a five-month stockpile - 250,000 metric
tons - in place within five weeks. If it doesn't, then voices as sober as
Andrew Natsios, the administrator of Bush's US Agency for International
Development, say 1.5 million Afghans risk starvation and seven million will
face critical food shortages.

To make matters worse, the Afghans aren't behaving as predicted. The United
Nations and aid agencies thought that 11 September would produce a rush of
refugees to the borders where rudimentary camps could be prepared to shelter
them. The expected exodus has been the great non-event of the war. The
Taliban have banned foreign journalists and looted UN communications
equipment, so no one really knows why Afghans aren't on the move. The most
frightening suggestion is that most with the ability to get out fled in the
Nineties. The majority of those left behind are too young, old or sick to
travel far. The people who are most likely to starve, in other words, are
least able to reach food stations.

Moving hundreds of convoys into one of the poorest countries in the world
within weeks would probably be impossible in peacetime. It's certainly
impossible during a war which Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of the Defence
Staff, said on Thursday would 'go through the winter and into next summer at
the very least'.

The bombing won't last that long; there aren't enough large pieces of rubble
in Afghanistan worth smashing into small pieces of rubble. But if the
predictions that an apocalypse will begin some day around 20 November are
half right, any stalling of food deliveries by B52s will bring mass

The officials in Whitehall who fear that Britain and America will be
complicit in a calamity get angriest about the absence of co-ordination.
There's no plan, they say, to share information between soldiers and aid
workers and balance humanitarian and military objectives. But then an
absence of coherent planning defines the conflict.

YOU MAY remember that the Northern Alliance was meant to fight America's
ground war by proxy. Now we're told it is almost as brutal and unfit for
power as the Taliban. Last Saturday, Alastair Campbell was adamant that
Britain did not want to extend the war to Iraq. On Sunday, Bush hinted
strongly that he'd like to do just that. Bush had backed away from declaring
war on Iraq by Friday. He was no longer sure if the complete overthrow of
the Taliban remained a war aim. Elements of the Taliban could have a role in
a national government if they surrendered bin Laden, he suggested. 'If you
cough him up and his people we will reconsider what we are doing to your

America can't define her enemies. If the Taliban are ejected, she doesn't
know who should form the next government. Blair and Bush, however, are aware
that they must convince the Muslim world that they are acting justly if they
wish to escape a new generation of bin Ladens. Yet their war will exacerbate
a famine which may further shred America's reputation in the region.

The alternative to hunger is a generous bombing pause so food can be
delivered and Washington can work out what this war is for. The Taliban
aren't going anywhere and can be defeated at any time. When you don't know
what you're doing it's usually best to adopt the pose of masterful
inactivity and do nothing.

Watch out, there's a dinosaur about

Broadsheet pundits and academics were arguing before 11 September what
description best suited an American Right which was tearing up every treaty.

'Isolationist' was rejected by one and all. The Bush administration didn't
give a damn about world opinion, but was very keen on global dominance.
'Unilateralist' was the preferred label of right-thinking people. Only Dan
Plesch of the Royal United Services Institute and a few other Leftish dons
argued that America's refusal to recognise international law meant that
technically it was an 'anarchist' state. I saw their point, but thought they
were pushing it a bit after 11 September.

A generous but not necessarily inaccurate explanation of Blair's willingness
to stand by America come what may is that he is trying to persuade Bush to
accept the need for global security. He could have argued that US's
sabotaging of controls on chemical and biological weapons in the summer, for
instance, was folly when hindsight proved that no crime was unimaginable.

To call America anarchist after what she has suffered seemed cruel, until I
read the debates on Jesse Helms's Amendment to Protect Servicemen From
International Criminal Court.

An urgent task in the 'war' against terrorism was, said the far-Right
Senator, the undermining of international justice. America must not accept
the jurisdiction of a court for war criminals, even though it was supported
by Britain and every other civilised country. Her military should be free to
take 'any necessary action' - including the deployment armed force - to
'free US soldiers' from its cells.

'Nothing is more important that the safety of our citizens, soldiers and
public servants,' said Helms. 'The terrorist attacks of 11 September have
made that fact all the more obvious.'

Attacking the law against war crimes after the crimes of 11 September was at
best frivolous - weren't their more pressing matters to discuss? - and at
worst insane. Arguments against an impartial court which might try the bin
Ladens of the future weaken America's attempt to build coalitions and
present her case in the Muslim world. To then propose surgical strikes on
the citizens of her allies was, surely, the ravings of a dinosaur.

Yet a proud Helms told the Senate that his amendment was 'endorsed by the
Bush administration'. 'Anarchist' was the mot juste, after all.


Excerpt from:

'You can't talk... you've got to go and beat them'
Exclusive interview: Kamal Ahmed, political editor, talks to Prime Minister
Tony Blair

Kamal Ahmed
Sunday October 14, 2001
The Observer

Iraq is a tougher proposition. Hawks in America regularly suggest that the
country will be part of a wider war against terrorism and possibly the
target of military action beyond patrolling the present no-fly zones. Ever
since the Gulf war Saddam has been 'unfinished business' as far as
Washington is concerned. Again Blair inches along the fine line but the
message is there. As far as Britain is concerned, Iraq is off the short-term

'The difficulty with this issue is that confusion has arisen,' he says.
'People haven't separated the two phases of this. The first phase is the
action in Afghanistan against the perpetrators of the 11 September outrage.
That is action we've discussed, considered, deliberated upon and taken.

'The next phase is actually against international terrorism in all its
forms. [But] we are focused on Afghanistan. When we move to the second
phase, which is about tackling terrorism in all its forms, how it is
financed, how these groups operate, how they acquire weapons - then that's
something we have to discuss with our partners.'

Many argue that it would be almost impossible to maintain a broad Arab
coalition in the face of increased military strikes against Saddam Hussein.
'I think what people need before we take action against anyone is evidence,'
Blair says. A Downing Street official admitted last week that Britain had no
evidence of a link between Iraq and the attacks on America.

Blair goes further and offers a concession to those who say that some effort
must be made to help the starving people of Iraq. He is willing once again
to look at the issue of relaxing United Nations sanctions.

'For many months Britain has with our other allies been trying to get UN
Security Council consent to a new sanctions regime which would allow us to
get money more directly through to the Iraqi people. I am hopeful that we
can push on that front because again we've no desire to see the Iraqi people

The sanctions message will be welcomed in the Middle East. 'The truth is
Saddam Hussein could perfectly easily give his people the money that they
need for food and medicine. He's not doing it because he needs them to
believe that the reason why they're starving and have difficulties is
because of the United States and Britain. It's nothing to do with that. The
reason we have no-fly zones is to prevent him doing what he did before with
the Kurds when he killed thousands of them by chemical attacks. The reason
why we need the sanctions is that we cannot have him using his oil money to
buy weapons of mass destruction, which we know he wants to do.'



The suicide bomber and the Baghdad conspiracy
Evidence that the hijacker Mohamed Atta repeatedly met an Iraqi diplomat has
split the alliance and put Saddam Hussein in the firing line.

Independent on Sunday
By Chris Blackhurst
14 October 2001

The intelligence agents watching thought nothing of the friendly greeting
exchanged between two Middle Eastern men at Prague's Ruzyne airport in June
2000. Of the pair, one was under constant surveillance as a suspected
organiser of terrorist operations. A diplomat in the Iraqi embassy, he had
been the subject of a tip-off. They watched each time he left the embassy,
heading to the headquarters of Radio Free Europe, the US government
broadcaster. His interest in the building did not make sense, they
reasoned – unless he was going to bomb it.

Like all meetings involving Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani, his warm
welcome to the smart, clean-cut Middle Eastern man at first aroused

But Mohamed Atta appeared on no wanted list – and besides, he could not be
the bomber of Radio Free Europe since he was only stopping off in Prague for
24 hours. Atta was booked on a flight to Newark. The Czech security agents
could relax: this was not their man.

He was a friend, perhaps, of Mr Al-Ani's from the old days, taking the
opportunity of a stopover to catch up. And besides, as they now point out,
Mr Al-Ani saw lots of people – that was his job – and there were other
Middle Easterners in Prague giving them more concern than Mr Atta. But more
and more, investigators now believe, the Prague connection was a key link in
the chain behind the attacks in New York on 11 September.

They suspect the meeting with Mr Al-Ani established Iraqi help for Atta, the
hijackers' leader, to plan his attacks. They believe he was provided with a
passport, courtesy of Iraq, while in Prague. As for other later meetings
between Atta and Mr Al-Ani, and another hijacker and the Iraqi diplomat, all
observed by Czech intelligence but not thought worth following up, the
investigators are left speechless.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course. If they knew then what they know
now, 11 September could have been avoided. But it was not like that. Mr
Al-Ani's subsequent expulsion from Prague for "activities incompatible with
his status as a diplomat" in April this year did not trigger alarm. Iraqi
diplomats were being turfed out of lots of countries round the world and his
target was thought to be the offices of Radio Free Europe, not the towers of
the World Trade Centre.

In all, Czech intelligence has admitted, Atta and Mr Al-Ani met three or
four times in the Czech Republic. In addition, officials in London and
Washington suspect Mr Al-Ani met one of the other hijackers, again in the
Czech Republic. The hijackers' liaison with Mr Al-Ani has split the alliance
in two, between officials who would like to see Baghdad pay the same price
as Kabul and those who would prefer it to be kept out of the picture, for
fear of widening opposition in the Arab world. In the US, the debate is more
or less polarised between the Pentagon and State Department, with the former
taking a hawkish stance.

The dispute has reached petty, bizarre levels, with reports circulating in
Washington that Pentagon officials have asked a former CIA chief to prepare
a report indicting Iraq. James Woolsey, President Clinton's CIA director
from 1993-94, is understood to be compiling evidence to present to the
officials, and ultimately to President Bush. Mr Woolsey has not confirmed
the role, saying he is on record as believing "the US government should look
into the issue of Iraqi involvement in terrorism". If Mr Woolsey does find
evidence of Iraqi complicity, the Bush administration will be torn. So far,
its strategy has been to warn Iraq of dire consequences if it tries to help
the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida organisation. Last week, John
Negroponte, the US ambassador to the United Nations, gave the message
personally to Mohammed Douri, his Iraqi opposite number. "There will be a
military strike against you and you will be defeated," Mr Negroponte is
understood to have told Mr Douri. The warning also reflects concern that
Iraq may try to flex its military muscle in the Middle East during a period
when US eyes are on Afghanistan.

Mr Douri was left under no illusion that any attempt to aid anti-American
forces in Afghanistan, to use weapons of mass destruction or to launch
military operations against the Kurdish minority in Iraq or against its
neighbours would result in an instant US armed response.

After contacting Baghdad, Mr Douri had a second meeting with Mr Negroponte
in which he denied any Iraqi links to al-Qa'ida or the Taliban. "We have had
no relation, in the past or now, with Osama bin Laden or the Taliban," Mr
Douri said.

Mr Negroponte has also written to the UN Security Council, putting the
members on notice that the US may retaliate against other state sponsors of
terrorism. This is taken as a clear reference to Iraq.

In the Middle East, Israeli officials have constantly talked up Iraq's
involvement, while Jordan has played it down. There is a worry, though,
among members of the Blair government opposed to moving against Iraq that Mr
Bush is intent on finishing the job his father started. They see any
evidence of Iraq being behind 11 September as giving Mr Bush the
justification he needs to stick to the Negroponte letter and to remove the
blot from his father's legacy.

Unfortunately for them, and alarmingly for all of us, there is mounting
evidence of an Iraqi role in the suicide attacks. Senator Orrin Hatch, a
senior Republican on both the Senate intelligence and judiciary committees,
and a recipient of high-level briefings since 11 September, said he is "very
confident" that Iraq played a role in 11 September. He refused to elaborate
but added: "Iraq has been harbouring these terrorists for a long time ... I
believe that Iraq is ultimately going to be proven to have been a part of

Investigators are convinced Mr bin Laden did not have the financial and
logistical capacity to organise 11 September. There is some truth, they
acknowledge, in the Taliban assertion that he was holed up in the Afghan
mountains, unable to draw upon the resources necessary to mount such an
onslaught. Everything they are coming across points to the participation of
intelligence machinery from a state, probably Iraq. The amount of false
documentation the hijackers carried suggests they must have been sponsored
by a state: one individual on his own, no matter how powerful, could not
have arranged all those bogus IDs and passports.

There has been one relatively recent reported sighting of Mr bin Laden in
Baghdad, in 1998. Giovanni Di Stefano, the lawyer to the late Serbian
warlord Arkan, has been quoted saying that he met Mr bin Laden in the lobby
of the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad while he was negotiating a contract to
represent Iraqi Airlines in Yugoslavia and Italy.

At the time, Mr bin Laden did not enjoy anything like the profile he does
now. According to the Di Stefano account he met a stranger in the lobby who
introduced himself as Osama bin Laden. They made polite conversation and
went their separate ways. It was only later that the lawyer realised whom he
had met. Experts pour scorn, however, on the notion that Saddam and Mr bin
Laden would team up. The Iraqi dictator has been savage in his treatment of
fundamentalist Muslims in Iraq and he does not share Mr bin Laden's devout
views. On the other hand, their shared hatred of America may have made them
forget their differences.

Vince Cannistraro, the CIA's former counter-terrorism chief, said Baghdad
made an overture to Mr bin Laden in December 1998. Saddam was apparently so
impressed by the bombings that year of the two US embassies in East Africa
that he sent Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Hijazi, to Afghanistan to
meet Mr bin Laden. The CIA believed Mr Hijazi offered Mr bin Laden and
al-Qa'ida, then being pursued by the Americans, a permanent refuge in Iraq
but the offer was refused.

Iraq has consistently denied any involvement in 11 September, accusing the
US and Britain of using the atrocities to settle old scores. "The US and
Britain know very well that Iraq has no relation whatsoever to what happened
in the United States and no relation whatsoever to the parties accused of
doing it," said Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri.

Nevertheless there are other links between Iraq and previous terror attacks.
One of the men on President's Bush 22 "most wanted" list of suspected
terrorists was questioned in the wake of the first attack on the World Trade
Centre in 1993. Abdul Rahman Yasin, a second-generation Iraqi immigrant from
Indiana, was questioned at length after the bombing, which caused extensive
damage to one of the towers and killed six people.

The FBI asked him about his flatmates in Jersey City, many of whom were
later indicted for involvement in the bombing, about his contact with
explosive chemicals and about his relationship with Ramzi Yousef, later
identified and convicted as the operation's mastermind.

Nevertheless he was released and allowed to leave the country because the
FBI thought it had no case against him. He is now in Iraq.

In the face of this evidence the real dilemma for the Bush-Blair axis will
come once the Taliban are defeated and Mr bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida
members in Afghanistan are captured, dead or alive. If the allies' promise
to pursue international terrorism is maintained, argue hard-liners in
Washington and London, then Saddam Hussein, who has already displayed a
desire to construct weapons of mass destruction, must be next.

The matter is yet more complicated because five of the 22 "most wanted" are
thought to live in Iran. They are headed by Imad Mughniyah, head of special
operations for the Lebanese group Hizbollah, who already had a $2m reward on
his head in the US. He is wanted in connection with a series of incidents,
including the kidnap, torture and murder – alleged to have been at his own
hands – of the Beirut CIA chief William Buckley and the abduction and
seven-year confinement of the American Terry Anderson.

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