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"Experts Doubt Iraq Had Role in Latest Terror Attacks" (10 Oct 01)

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
October 11, 2001, Thursday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section B; Page 7; Column 1; Foreign Desk
LENGTH: 546 words
Experts Doubt Iraq Had Role in Latest Terror Attacks
DATELINE: AMMAN, Jordan, Oct. 10
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought immediate
accusations not only against Osama bin Laden but against Saddam Hussein of
Iraq as his likely partner in crime.

A terrorist assault of this magnitude could not have been carried out
without a state sponsor, the argument went, and what state had greater
loathing for the United States than Iraq? This theory gained a following
after recent reports that Mohamed Atta, believed to have been one of the
masterminds of the operation, met with Iraqi officials in Prague.

But intelligence agencies from a number of countries, including some with a
strong desire to see Mr. Hussein fall, have concluded that Iraq was not
involved in the attacks, nor has he given harbor to Al Qaeda, Mr. bin
Laden's organization.

"I wish we could find a connection, but we haven't," said a senior official
in Jordan, which, like Israel, considers Iraq a deadly threat to regional
peace. "Not that Iraq doesn't support terrorism, but not Osama bin Laden,"
the official said.

Israeli intelligence officials told their American counterparts that they
have not found any evidence of an Iraqi role in the attacks, either.

The Jordanian official said Jordanian agents had succeeded in infiltrating
some cells of Al Qaeda and had even sent men to Mr. bin Laden's training
camps in Afghanistan. Thanks to that intelligence, Jordan thwarted a plot to
assassinate King Abdullah while he was on his yacht in the Mediterranean
last summer, the official said. The plan called for a boat to ram the king's
yacht, and for a missile to be fired at it from a Greek island, the official
said. The king cut his vacation short and returned home.

Just a few months ago, the Jordanians uncovered a plan to attack American
and Israeli tourists in Jordan, and to blow up bridges in between the
countries, the official said. This, too, was the work of organizations
linked to Mr. bin Laden, he said. Israeli officials confirmed both of the
foiled plots.

One of the first things Israeli cabinet ministers and military commanders
asked of the intelligence community after the September attacks was whether
Mr. Hussein was behind them. The answer was a resounding no, said an Israeli
intelligence expert. "I am sure Saddam Hussein is very happy, but not more
than that," was how he summed up the Israeli findings.

The United States has been looking hard for Iraqi links to Mr. bin Laden
since the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and pursued them even
harder after the embassy bombings. "We would have loved to have found an
Iraqi connection," said a former senior Clinton administration official. But
none was found. "The F.B.I. was very clear that the trail didn't lead that
way," the official said.

That is what is the most frightening, he and others said: Mr. bin Laden
seems not to need a state sponsor to carry out his attacks. "He is his own
state, a global state," said an intelligence official in the Mideast.

What Mr. bin Laden needs from a state is a safe haven and a place for
training camps, and until now that has been Afghanistan. If he loses
Afghanistan as a result of the current military campaign, he will move his
operations to another lawless area, perhaps Chechnya, officials in the
region said.

GRAPHIC: Photo: A crowd in Baghdad demonstrated yesterday against the
American and British military attacks in Afghanistan. Protesters at center
waved banners reading, "Down with American Terrorism Against Islam." (Jassim
Mohammed/Associated Press)

LOAD-DATE: October 11, 2001

Nathaniel Hurd
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
162 Montague Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel.: 718-237-9145, x 21
Fax: 718-237-9147
Mobile: 917-407-3389
Personal E-Fax: 707-221-7449

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