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.
"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.
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.
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