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U.S. Accuses Hussein of Aiding Al Qaeda Members

September 26, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush's national security advisor Wednesday accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime of sheltering Al Qaeda members in Baghdad and helping Osama bin Laden's operatives develop chemical weapons.

Condoleezza Rice's comments--by far the strongest statements yet from the U.S. government alleging Al Qaeda contacts with the Iraqi government--were aired on PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

"We clearly know that there ... have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of Al Qaeda," Rice said. "We know too that several of the [Al Qaeda] detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons."

Although Hussein and Bin Laden both oppose the United States, many analysts say their motivations are too different for them to work together. U.S. intelligence officials have said some Al Qaeda members have been detected in Iraq but they appeared to be passing through after fleeing Afghanistan.

Rice did not offer direct proof of Iraq-Al Qaeda links, suggesting only that details would be released later.

"No one is trying to make an argument at this point that Saddam Hussein somehow had operational control of what happened on Sept. 11, so we don't want to push this too far, but this is a story that is unfolding, and it is getting clearer, and we're learning more," she said.

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