Experts scorn Saddam link to
AN EXPERT on
international terrorism yesterday backed the findings of a
British intelligence report which concluded that there was no
evidence to show Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda.
government’s Defence Intelligence Staff Agency report said
that while there could have been a relationship between the
two in the past, any fledgling relationship foundered due to
mistrust and incompatible ideology.
contradicted the government’s assertion that Saddam Hussein’s
regime was supporting al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation
blamed for the 11 September attacks on New York.
it was backed by Rohan Gunaratna, a researcher on terrorism
and political violence at St Andrews University, who said that
there had never been any suggestion that Iraq had offered
support to al-Qaeda.
"I have examined many thousands
of documents from Afghanistan I could not find any links
whatsoever with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda," he said.
"If there are links, they should prove it. They have
an enormous intelligence budget , they have interviewed more
than 1,000 al-Qaeda suspects, they have examined thousands of
documents, and they have found nothing.
"That does not
mean Saddam Hussein is a good man," he added. "He has
sponsored so many terrorist groups, but if there are links,
they should prove it."
Despite the report, which was
written within the last three weeks and leaked to the BBC,
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, yesterday insisted that
Iraq did allow a "permissive environment" in which al-Qaeda
was able to operate. He said that intelligence reports showed
there had been links between al-Qaeda and "various people" in
Mr Straw added the government stood by comments
made by Tony Blair in the Commons that there were links
between Iraq and al-Qaeda, although the extent was unclear.
"What we see in terms of intelligence is that the
Iraqi regime appears to be allowing a permissive environment
in which al-Qaeda is able to operate," he said. "Certainly, we
have seen links between al-Qaeda and various people in Iraq.
What we don’t know - and the Prime Minister and I have made
this very clear - is the extent of those links.
we also know, however, is that the Iraqi regime have been up
to their necks in support of terrorism generally as long as
they have been there."