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Iraq Rebuts Powell Claim of Links to Al Qaeda

Baghdad told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday that it has no ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, denying allegations of links between the two by Secretary of State Colin Powell. A letter to Annan from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri says Baghdad has even armed a Kurdish group in northern Iraq to help it defend itself against Ansar al-Islam, a group Powell said was linked to al Qaeda, Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said. A 20-page letter from Sabri to Annan, delivered by Aldouri on Thursday, aims to rebut, point by point, Powell’s “baseless” Feb. 5 presentation to the U.N. Security Council, Aldouri told Reuters. Neither the United Nations nor Iraq has released the Sabri letter. Powell in his nearly 90-minute presentation tried to establish a link between al Qaeda and Iraq by saying that Ansar al-Islam was trying to make chemical weapons in its northern Iraq hide-out under the direction of al Qaeda members. Full Story

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