Rumsfeld softens claims of al-Qaeda link to Iraq




By Mark Huband, Security correspondent, in Washington

Financial Times, 5 October 2004

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, on Monday appeared to soften claims that al-Qaeda had links to the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, which were a major part of the Bush administration’s case for war.

Mr Rumsfeld told a meeting in New York that “to my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two,“ when asked whether the links had existed.

However, Mr Rumsfeld fell short of fully reversing the previous strong claims of the linkage, by acknowledging that uncertainty surrounds the intelligence on the issue.

“I have seen the answer to [this] question migrate in the intelligence community over a period of a year in the most amazing way. There are differences in the intelligence community as to what the relationship was…I just read an intelligence report recently about one person who’s connected to al-Qaeda who was in and out of Iraq. And it is the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship. It may have been something that was not representative of a hard linkage,“ he said.

Bush administration officials insisted in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that strong ties existed between Baghdad and an Islamist group in northern Iraq that was linked to al-Qaeda.

These alleged ties were a key part of the US secretary of state Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN security council on 5 February 2003, when he argued the case for war.



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