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Rice stands by claims of Al-Qaeda-Saddam links

AFP | September 11 2006

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq were developing weapons of mass destruction prior to the ousting of Saddam Hussein.

Rice, giving a series of interviews ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, brushed aside a recently released US intelligence report saying there was no evidence Saddam's regime was helping Al-Qaeda obtain such arms.

"There were ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," she said on Fox News Sunday.

Rice specifically linked Al-Qaeda's presumed leader in Iraq at the time, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to the effort to develop chemical arms.

"We know that Zarqawi was running a poison network in Iraq," she said, reaffirming statements made by President George W. Bush and herself prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq linking Baghdad with Osama bin Laden's group.

Rice stood by the claim Sunday despite a February 2002 report from the Defense Department's intelligence arm which was just released by a Senate Committee and stated that Iraq was "unlikely to have provided Bin Laden any useful (chemical or biological) knowledge or assistance."

"That particular report I don't remember seeing," Rice said when asked if she and Bush had not ignored the assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"There are conflicting intelligence reports all the time," she said.

"That's why we have an intelligence system that brings those together into a unified assessment by the intelligence commit of what -- community of what we're looking at."

In the run-up to the September 11 anniversary, and with the unpopular war in Iraq threatening to damage Bush's Republican Party in upcoming congressional elections, senior administration officials have been repeatedly making the case the the Iraq conflict is a central element of the so-called "war on terror".

Rice said the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims which is now plaguing Iraq was set off by Al-Qaeda in order to prevent the development of a stable, democratic regime in Baghdad.

"It would simply be wrong to say that the only problem in Iraq is sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia," she said.

"There is still a considerable problem of terrorism from extremists who simply want to see Iraq be a part of a Middle East in which the Bin Ladens of the world control," she said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted Sunday that Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq were developing weapons of mass destruction prior to the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Rice, giving a series of interviews ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, brushed aside a recently released US intelligence report saying there was no evidence Saddam's regime was helping Al-Qaeda obtain such arms.

"There were ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," she said on Fox News Sunday.

Rice specifically linked Al-Qaeda's presumed leader in Iraq at the time, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to the effort to develop chemical arms.

"We know that Zarqawi was running a poison network in Iraq," she said, reaffirming statements made by President George W. Bush and herself prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq linking Baghdad with Osama bin Laden's group.

Rice stood by the claim Sunday despite a February 2002 report from the Defense Department's intelligence arm which was just released by a Senate Committee and stated that Iraq was "unlikely to have provided Bin Laden any useful (chemical or biological) knowledge or assistance."

"That particular report I don't remember seeing," Rice said when asked if she and Bush had not ignored the assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"There are conflicting intelligence reports all the time," she said.

"That's why we have an intelligence system that brings those together into a unified assessment by the intelligence commit of what -- community of what we're looking at."

In the run-up to the September 11 anniversary, and with the unpopular war in Iraq threatening to damage Bush's Republican Party in upcoming congressional elections, senior administration officials have been repeatedly making the case the the Iraq conflict is a central element of the so-called "war on terror".

Rice said the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims which is now plaguing Iraq was set off by Al-Qaeda in order to prevent the development of a stable, democratic regime in Baghdad.

"It would simply be wrong to say that the only problem in Iraq is sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia," she said.

"There is still a considerable problem of terrorism from extremists who simply want to see Iraq be a part of a Middle East in which the Bin Ladens of the world control," she said.

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