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[casi] Bush Asserts Baghdad Link With Al-Qaeda, European Experts Disagree

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Friends -

                This comes from the United Nations Foundation's UN Wire.

Fred Dettmer

IRAQ: Bush Asserts Baghdad Link With Al-Qaeda, European Experts Disagree

U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday alleged that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein has connections to al-Qaeda, calling Hussein a "dangerous man" and
saying there have been known contacts between Hussein and terrorist

"We know the implications of him [Hussein] having a nuclear weapon," Bush
said during a political campaign stop in Blountville, Tennessee   "We know
he's had contacts with terrorists' networks like al-Qaeda."

Hussein "would like nothing more than to use an al-Qaeda-type network, if not
al-Qaeda itself, to be the advanced army to utilize his training and his
arsenal of weapons of mass destruction on his most hated enemy, the American
people," Bush said during a speech in Marietta, Georgia (Edith Lederer, <A 
Associated Press</A>/Yahoo! News, Nov. 3).

U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Friday that Iraq has allowed
al-Qaeda to operate within its borders.

"In terms of support for terrorism, we have established that Iraq has
permitted al-Qaeda to operate within its territory," Bolton said (<A 
Times</A>, Nov. 2).

Several European officials and experts, however, have said the evidence is

"We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda," said
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a French judge who has spent 20 years investigating
Middle Eastern terrorism.  "And we are working on 50 cases involving al-Qaeda
or radical Islamic cells.  I think if there were such links, we would have
found them.  But we have found no serious connections whatsoever."

European experts have said they have not yet seen any U.S. evidence of
connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, nor have they been able to
independently prove such connections.  There is little reason to believe
there could be any connection because Hussein represents the type of secular
Arab leader that suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has said he
opposes, they said.

Talk of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda connection is "nonsense," a
high-ranking German intelligence source said.  "Not even the Americans
believe it anymore."

"I have seen no link to al-Qaeda.  No one has demonstrated it to me," said
Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish magistrate who is prosecuting suspected al-Qaeda
operatives in Madrid for alleged involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.  "And
therefore we have to be very careful not to confuse the citizens.  One thing
is that you don't like the Iraqi regime, that Saddam Hussein is a dictator. 
But there are many terrible dictators.  That's not a reason to start a war
with all the consequences it could have for millions of innocents."

While there have been some signs that al-Qaeda operatives traveled through
Iraq en route to other countries prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, there is much
stronger evidence of al-Qaeda's presence in other countries, including
Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Iran, according to European investigators.  Since
the war in Afghanistan that overthrew the Taliban regime, Iran in particular
has become a base for al-Qaeda operatives, according to French investigators.

Saudi Arabia, which is publicly a U.S. ally, has nonetheless been heavily
involved in funding al-Qaeda and in the organization's recruitment efforts,
European investigators said.

"If connections to a country are going to be the rationale, the Americans
would have to bomb Saudi Arabia," a Spanish official said (Sebastian Rotella,
<A HREF="">Los Angeles 
Times</A>, Nov. 4).

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