WASHINGTON -- Fresh FBI interviews with suspects in a alleged assassination attempt against former President Bush in Kuwait have led U.S. officials to give more credence to the possibility that such a plot existed and that the Iraqi government was behind it, according to U.S. government sources.
The sources cautioned yesterday, however, that the FBI's investigation is far from over and that many interviews, as well as forensic tests, still must be completed.
The primary suspect, Wali al-Ghazali, who was being held along with 10 others in a Kuwaiti jail, has admitted to being the ringleader of the plot, the sources said, and has claimed he was prepared to strap explosives around his waist and detonate them in a dramatic suicide bombing as he stood near Mr. Bush.
He also has told investigators that he worked closely with the Iraqi Intelligence Service and received other assistance from the Iraqi government in an attempt to carry out the plot, the sources said.
The 10 other suspects being held along with him have given similar accounts, the sources said.
The information gleaned from the FBI and Secret Service interviews has been passed on to the State Department and the White House, which has talked about the possibility of retaliatory action against Iraq if the allegations of Iraqi involvement in an assassination attempt prove true.
Claims of Iraqi involvement initially were made by the Kuwaiti government after a group of Iraqis, Kuwaitis and Arabs were apprehended -- carrying hundreds of pounds of explosives -- by a Kuwaiti border patrol on the eve of Mr. Bush's arrival in Kuwait for a three-day visit April 14.
Kuwait's defense minister, Sheik Ali Sabah al-Salem, said last month that the suspects drove from Iraq into Kuwait before Mr. Bush arrived, bringing with them some 550 pounds of explosives.
He said they planned to detonate a car bomb near a building where Mr. Bush was to receive an honorary degree in tribute to the successful operation he mounted to expel Iraq's invasion force from Kuwait in 1991. Failing that, Mr. al-Ghazali would carry out his suicide bombing.