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Hussein sought aid of bin Laden against Saudis, report says

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990s were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

U.S. officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing attempts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including bin Laden's organization, before al-Qaida had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

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The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration.

Last week, the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks addressed the known contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, which have been noted by the White House as evidence of a close relationship between the two.

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The commission concluded that the contacts had not demonstrated "a collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaida. The Bush administration responded that there was considerable evidence of ties.

The new document, which appears to have circulated only since April, was provided to The New York Times several weeks ago, before the commission's report was released. Since obtaining the document, The Times has interviewed several military, intelligence and U.S. government officials in Washington and Baghdad to determine that the government considered it authentic.

The Americans confirmed that they had obtained the document from the Iraqi National Congress, as part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of the regime last year. The Defense Intelligence Agency paid the Iraqi National Congress for documents and other information until recently, when the group and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, fell out of favor in Washington.

Some of the intelligence provided by the group is now wholly discredited, although officials have called some of the documents it helped to obtain useful.

A translation of this Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group, officials said. It included senior analysts from the military's Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a joint intelligence task force that specializes in counterterrorism issues, they said.

The task force concluded that the document "appeared authentic," and that it "corroborates and expands on previous reporting" about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force's analysis.

At the time of the contacts described in the Iraqi document, bin Laden was little known beyond the world of national security experts. It is now thought that his associates bombed a hotel in Yemen used by American troops bound for Somalia in 1992. Intelligence officials also believe he played a role in training Somali fighters who battled Army Rangers and Special Operation Forces in Mogadishu during the "Black Hawk Down" battle of 1993.


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