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Bush defends link between Iraq, Qaida

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - The finding by the Sept. 11 commission that Iraq and al-Qaida never collaborated to attack the United States has political trouble written all over it for George W. Bush - and the president, seeming to sense danger, is striking back hard.

Bush reacted strongly yesterday to a question about the commission findings on Iraq and al-Qaida during a session with reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

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"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida," Bush said.

The president denied ever alleging that Saddam had a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, but added that he had asserted "there were numerous contacts" between the Iraqi leader and al-Qaida. "For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden ... in the Sudan," he said.

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The commission staff statement also noted that meeting, saying it occurred in 1994. It added, however, that the meeting came to nothing; bin Laden requested space for training camps and help in obtaining weapons, but the Iraqis never responded. "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated in attacks against the United States," said the statement.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


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