WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld said Tuesday he had no reason to believe
that Saddam had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld
was asked about a poll that indicated nearly 70 percent
of respondents believed the Iraqi leader probably was personally involved.
"I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that," Rumsfeld said.
He added: "We know he was giving $25,000
a family for anyone who would go out and kill innocent men, women
and children. And we know of various other activities. But on that specific one, no, not to my knowledge."
The Bush administration has asserted that
Saddam had links to al-Qaida and Osama.
And in various public statements over the past year or so administration officials have suggested close links.
Dick Cheney said Sunday that success in
stabilizing and democratizing Iraq would strike a major blow at the
"the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9-11."
And Tuesday, on "Nightline," Condi Rice
said one reason Bush went to war against Saddam
was because he posed a threat in "a region from which the 9-11 threat emerged."
On "Meet the Press," Cheney was asked whether
he was surprised that more than two-thirds of Americans
in the Washington Post poll would express a belief that Iraq was behind the attacks.
"No, I think it's not surprising that people make that connection," he replied.
Rice, asked about the same poll numbers,
said, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had
either direction or control of 9-11."
"What we have said," she added, "is that this
is someone who supported terrorists, helped to train
them, but most importantly that this is someone who, with his animus toward the United States, with
his penchant for and capability to gain weapons of mass destruction, and his obvious willingness to
use them, was a threat in this region that we were not prepared to tolerate."
Cheney said he recalled being asked about
an Iraq connection to 9-11 shortly after the attacks,
and he recalled saying he knew of no evidence at that point.
"Subsequent to that, we have learned a couple
of things," he said. "We learned more and more that there was a relationship
beween Iraq and al-Qaida that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s; that it involved training, for example,
on BW (biological warfare) and CW (chemical warfare) — that al-Qaida sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the
systems, and involved the Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaida organization."
At his Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld
reiterated his belief that U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq are making
progress in stabilizing the country.
He said it was an "open question" whether
the United States would get the 10,000 to 15,000 additional international
seeks to create a third multinational division for security duty in Iraq. The Pentagon has been hopeful of getting at least that many
additional troops from Turkey, Pakistan or other friendly countries to beef up security and possibly to allow some of the 130,000
U.S. troops there to go home next year.
"It would relieve some of the pressure on our
forces," Rumsfeld said. "Whether or not there will be a UN resolution and
or not — even if there were a resolution — we would get that number of troops is an open question."
Rice acknowledged that if commitments for more troops are gained, it "could be months" before they were in place.
Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff who appeared with Rumsfeld, said there are more than
coalition forces in Iraq: 130,000 American troops, 24,000 British and other international troops, and 60,000 Iraqi police, border
guards and civil defense forces.
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