- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, yesterday accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime of sheltering members of the al Qaeda terrorist network in Baghdad and helping Osama bin Laden's operatives in developing chemical weapons.
Miss Rice's comments by far the strongest statements yet from the U.S. government claiming al Qaeda contacts with the Iraqi government were aired yesterday on PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
"We clearly know that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time," Miss 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 development."
Until now, the widely held official view has been that while Saddam and bin Laden both oppose the United States, their motivations are too different for them to work together. Saddam seeks secular power; bin Laden's drive comes from religious motivations and his opposition to the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.
Previously, U.S. intelligence officials have said that some al Qaeda members have been detected in Iraq, but that they appeared to simply be crossing the country after fleeing Afghanistan for their native countries on the Arabian peninsula or in North Africa.
Administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said MIss Rice's disclosure was significant because it marked the first time that the White House claimed that al Qaeda operated in Saddam-controlled Baghdad. It was an effort to counter suggestions that al Qaeda operatives were solely in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, which he doesn't control.
The disclosure is part of an effort to strengthen the case against Saddam, the officials said.

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