- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

PARIS, Jan. 26 (UPI) — CIA officials, in an attempt to prove Washington's accusations about Iraq's ties to al Qaida, found a tenuous — and ultimately bogus — link, a French newspaper reported Sunday.

Le Journal du Dimanche said Jordanian officials alerted the U.S. government that the uncle of one of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers was linked to the Fatah Revolutionary Council, headed by terrorist Abu Nidal.

The group is closely linked to the Baghdad regime of Saddam Hussein, Le Journal reported. Nidal, however, was based in Damascus, Syria, until he died under mysterious circumstances last year.

CIA officials subsequently demanded Syria help find documents implicating the Sept. 11 hijacker, Ziad el Jarrah, and his uncle, to Baghdad.

"In vain," the newspaper reported. "The Islamist Ziad el Jarrah had absolutely no political ties with his secular uncle … Once more, an effort to imply Iraq in the Sept. 11 attacks fell short."

If true, this would not be the first time the Bush administration has failed to prove links between Baghdad and the al Qaida network of Osama bin Laden.

Washington earlier asserted Sept. 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, Czech Republic, but Czech President Vaclav Havel later denied the report.

Le Journal implied, meanwhile, that Baghdad nonetheless might be implicated in Nidal's death. Nidal was found dead in his Damascus apartment last August, his body riddled with bullets. At the time, Syrian authorities said he had committed suicide.

The French newspaper offered another version.

"Alerted by American suspicions," the newspaper said, "the Iraqis took the initiative (against Nidal), anxious not to furnish the least pretext for the United States."

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