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Report: No prewar Saddam-al-Qaida tie

JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press | September 8 2006

WASHINGTON - There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.

The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates."

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

The long-awaited report, said Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., a member of the committee, is "a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts" to link Saddam to al-Qaida.

The report, two years in the making, comes out amid a series of Bush speeches stressing that pursuing the military effort in Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terrorism, and two months before that policy will be tested in midterm elections.

The report deals with two aspects of prewar intelligence — the role of the Iraqi National Congress and its exile leader Ahmed Chalabi and a comparison of prewar intelligence assessments and postwar findings on weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's links to terrorist groups.

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