Russia: Ties to Saddam loyalists give Al Qaida access to WMD

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

MOSCOW A senior Russian official said Al Qaida's alliance with members of the former regime of Saddam Hussein could provide the Islamic movement with access to WMD and other sensitive material. The official said Al Qaida operatives would probably obtain WMD components.

"It is obvious that Iraq has really become attractive to all kinds of terrorists, and Al Qaida feels quite comfortable in Iraq," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuriy Fedotov said. "Therefore, the threat that components and materials, which possibly remain in Iraq, can find their way into the hands of international terrorists, is quite high."

Fedotov said Al Qaida has developed a significant presence in Iraq in wake of the toppling of the Saddam regime.

He said Saddam was not linked to Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported.

"One can hardly maintain that the former Iraqi regime was linked to Al Qaida," Fedotov told the Interfax news agency on June 24.

The Russian official said Russia was concerned by the prospect that WMD remains in Iraq. He did not provide further details.

"The task of finally clarifying Iraq's disarmament dossier remains topical," Fedotov said.

The United States has also expressed concern that Al Qaida, particularly Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, could gain access to what officials said could be an arsenal of hundreds shells filled with sarin or mustard gas. Dozens of such shells have been found by U.S. troops over the last year.

"We know just through historical example that these groups have a thirst for weapons of mass destruction," Defense Department spokesman Lawrence di Rita said on June 24. "We knew before the war that Zarqawi was involved in Ansar Al Islam, and Ansar Al Islam was very much involved in the production of at least toxic poisons, if not chemical weapons."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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