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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Iraq files 'show al-Qaeda link'
Bin Laden's name was erased with correction fluid
Documents found in Baghdad show a link between Saddam Hussein's fallen regime and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, according to a UK newspaper.

The Sunday Telegraph says reporter Inigo Gilmore discovered the files in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, the feared Iraqi intelligence service.

It says the files, in Arabic, show an al-Qaeda envoy was invited to visit Baghdad secretly in March 1998.

The report comes only days after its sister paper, the Daily Telegraph claimed to have unearthed documents showing left-wing Labour MP George Galloway received money from the Iraqi regime.

Mr Galloway denies the claims and plans to sue the paper for libel.

These latest documents suggest Iraqi officials wanted to pass on an oral message to set up a direct meeting with Bin Laden.

The 1998 visit described in the documents would have taken place before Washington blamed Bin Laden for the bombings of two US embassies in Africa later that year.

Correction fluid

Mr Gilmore told the BBC he found the documents after being allowed into the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad by US troops guarding the site.

He smuggled the papers back to his hotel where his translator translated them into English.

Perhaps significantly the CIA had been through many of these buildings but they seem to have missed this particular document
Inigo Gilmore
Sunday Telegraph
He told the BBC: "I noticed on some of the documents there were some marks erased out... we scraped away with a razor and underneath we found the name Bin Laden three times and obviously realised this was highly significant.

"These documents explain that an envoy from Bin Laden came to Iraq in March 1998 to discuss contact between al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence.

"It also talks about sending an oral message back to Bin Laden and it furthermore discuss the idea of setting up a direct meeting with Bin Laden himself."

In one document quoted by the paper an Iraqi official wrote:

"We suggest permission to call the Khartoum station [Iraq's intelligence office in Sudan] to facilitate the travel arrangements for the above-mentioned person to Iraq.

"And that our body carry all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from Bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to Bin Laden."


Mr Gilmore said the document was highly significant given the United States' claims of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

He said: "I have worked in the Middle East for many years and like many other journalists was very sceptical about American claims.

"However, having found these documents, and reviewed them and had several people translate them for accuracy it does seem very credible that this contact was made in 1998 and perhaps followed up afterwards.

Osama bin Laden
Al-Qaeda is blamed for bombings in Africa and 11 September attacks
"We don't have any evidence of that."

Mr Gilmore said he was not out to provide propaganda for the US but the documents could be something they would want to use to back up their claims.

He said: "Perhaps significantly the CIA had been through many of these buildings but they seem to have missed this particular document.

"But it is pretty much pot luck. We have been through many buildings this week and this is the first significant thing we have found."

Before the war Saddam Hussein made it clear he had no links with al-Qaeda.

During an interview with former British MP Tony Benn, he said: "If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda, and we believed in that relationship, we would not be ashamed to admit it."

The BBC's Allan Little
"Documents found suggest an envoy sent by Osama Bin Laden came to Baghdad"

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