Blair: Iraq Linked To Al-Qaida
By ROBERT BARR
January 29, 2003 - LONDON (AP) -- Iraq has links with the al-Qaida terrorist network, but
the "exact extent" of their cooperation is unknown, Prime
Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday.
Blair's comment came a day after President Bush said in his State of
the Union speech that there was evidence that Saddam Hussein "aids
and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida."
Blair responded to a question from opposition Conservative leader Iain
Duncan Smith, who recalled that British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon had
said earlier in the week that ties between Iraq and al-Qaida were
"We do not know of evidence linking Iraq to al-Qaida in
circumstances concerning the Sept. 11 attack," Blair told the House
"We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq. We cannot be sure
of the exact extent of those links."
Blair did not say what evidence Britain had of such links.
In Baghdad Wednesday, Hazem Bajilan, a member of the Iraqi Parliament,
denied that his country had any connection with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
"These allegations have been raised before by Mr. Bush,"
lawmaker Hazem Bajilan told AP Television News. He dismissed the
allegations as pretexts for war.
Blair again faced hostile questioning from a lawmaker in his own Labor
Party about Britain's enthusiastic support for U.S. policy.
Lawmaker Lynne Jones asked Blair why Saddam poses "a greater
threat today than he did in 1997, 1998, 1999, and all the time my right
honorable friend was prime minister, up until President Bush's 'axis of
evil' speech, when apparently the situation changed."
Blair countered that he had long regarded Saddam as a menace.
"Precisely because he was a threat, there have been thousands of
British forces down in the Gulf the whole time, flying over the no-fly
zones," Blair said.
"The fact is, way before President Bush's speech, at the very
first meeting I had with President Bush back in February 2001, I said that
weapons of mass destruction is an issue, and we have to confront
Responding to a lawmaker who called out, "Who's next?", Blair
said: "After we deal with Iraq we then do ... through the United
Nations, again, have to confront North Korea about its weapons programs.
We have to confront those companies and individuals trading in weapons of
"And another question is shouted at me, 'When do we stop?' We stop
when the threat to our security is fully and properly dealt with,"
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