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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Bush details Bin Laden Iraq plot
US President George W Bush
Mr Bush said 9/11 was "a down-payment on violence yet to come"
US President George W Bush has shared intelligence that Osama Bin Laden was seeking in 2005 to set up an al-Qaeda cell in Iraq to strike US targets.

Mr Bush said the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was asked to set up a "staging ground" from which al-Qaeda could plot attacks on the US.

He described the war in Iraq as a fight between the US and al-Qaeda and said America faced an ongoing terror threat.

"Here in America, we are living in the eye of a storm," he said.

"Al-Qaeda is public enemy number one in Iraq's young democracy. Al-Qaeda is public enemy number one for America as well," Mr Bush told a crowd attending a US Coast Guard Academy ceremony in Connecticut.

"In the minds of al-Qaeda leaders, 9/11 was just a down-payment on violence yet to come... The danger has not passed," he said, highlighting US successes in preventing subsequent planned attacks.

'Political advantage'

Much of the intelligence cited by President Bush was made public on Tuesday and expanded on a classified Homeland Security document issued in 2005.

Video allegedly showing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (archive photo)
Zarqawi was believed to be behind much of the violence in Iraq
The bulletin, which warned Bin Laden had enlisted Zarqawi - who was later killed in Iraq by a US air strike in June 2006 - was described at the time as credible but not specific.

The Bush administration did not raise its national terror alert level at the time.

Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend said details were released as intelligence agents had followed-up all leads and those involved were either dead or in US custody.

If the information had been declassified earlier the president could have used it to his political advantage, she said, adding: "This is kind of late to be able to bring this to the game."

On Wednesday, Democrat congressional leaders abandoned plans to tie support for a $100bn (50bn) war funding bill to a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The decision followed weeks of wrangling over the bill which the US president had threatened to veto.


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