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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 07:05 GMT 08:05 UK
US plan to attack al-Qaeda 'ignored'
Osama Bin Laden
The plan against Bin Laden was approved in September
The White House has denied a report that a plan by the previous Clinton administration to attack the al-Qaeda network was ignored for eight months by the incoming Bush team.

According to Time magazine, a detailed assessment of Osama Bin Laden's network, and how to combat it, was presented to the current National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in January 2001.


The Clinton administration did not present an aggressive new plan to topple al-Qaeda during the transition

Sean McCormack,
White House spokesman
It was only approved on 4 September, just a week before the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the magazine reported.

A White House spokesman, however, said Bush officials were not presented with a detailed plan, only general ideas on how to diminish the al-Qaeda threat.

But the BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington says that as the first anniversary of the attacks approaches, the Bush administration is increasingly sensitive to any suggestion that it could have done more to prevent them

In-fighting

Sandy Berger, national security adviser under Mr Clinton, says he set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor.

Sandy Berger - national security adviser under President Clinton
Berger says he briefed his successor

Time quotes Mr Berger as saying he himself attended the one that dealt with the threat to the US by international terrorism "to underscore how important" he believed the issue to be.

"I believe that the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject," he is reported to have told Ms Rice.

Clinton aides quoted by the magazine say they did not put their plan into action because, with only a month left in office, they did not believe it appropriate to launch an attack on Bin Laden.

Time magazine says the plan languished under the incoming Bush administration for eight months due to bureaucratic obstacles and in-fighting.

'No new plan'

But the White House says that what it was presented with was not a firm plan for dealing with al-Qaeda.

"The Clinton administration did not present an aggressive new plan to topple al-Qaeda during the transition," spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"We were briefed on the al-Qaeda threat and what the Clinton administration was doing about it. These efforts against al-Qaeda were continued in the Bush administration."

The Bush administration and American intelligence have come under intense scrutiny in the past months, amid allegations that warning signs were not dealt with properly ahead of 11 September.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Michael Elliott, Time magazine
"These proposals were considered during 2001, just considered extremely slowly"

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03 Aug 02 | Americas
01 Aug 02 | Americas
31 Jul 02 | Americas
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04 Jul 02 | Americas
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