MOSCOW ø 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."