WASHINGTON - Interrogations of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and documents seized after the 2003 US-led invasion confirmed that his regime had not been cooperating with Al-Qaeda, the Washington Post reported on its website Friday.The report contradicted a strong argument for the invasion made by the administration of President George W. Bush that Baghdad had a working relationship with Al-Qaeda, the Afghanistan-based group led by Osama bin Laden blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The Post reported that a newly released declassified Department of Defense report said information obtained after the fall of Saddam confirmed the prewar position of the US Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon intelligence that the Iraqi government had had no substantial contacts with Al-Qaeda.
The report noted that the office of then-undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith, one of the foremost advocates for invading Iraq after the 2001 attacks, had ignored the CIA's position and characterized the Al-Qaeda-Iraq relationship as "mature" and "symbiotic" in a September 2002 briefing to the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Feith briefing alleged that the two cooperated in 10 areas, including training, financing and logistics.
But the new report, the Post says, said the US intelligence community had concluded at the time that there were "no conclusive signs" of links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and that "direct cooperation ... has not been established" between the two.
Prior to the war there was little public dispute inside the United States over the Bush administration's linking Iraq and bin Laden's group.
But since the invasion, a number of intelligence officials have alleged that the White House and its backers ignored their intelligence and "cherry picked" information that supported their campaign to persuade Americans of the need to go to war.
In a radio interview Wednesday Cheney insisted on a prewar link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, saying that the group was working in Iraq "before we even arrived on the scene."
"As I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq," Cheney told conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
Copyright © 2007 AFP.