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Powell: New bin Laden message on Iraq


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CIA chief: Terror threats 'most specific we've seen'

Powell: New bin Laden message on Iraq

Tuesday, February 11, 2003 Posted: 11:48 AM EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence indicates al Qaeda is planning attacks in the United States and the Arabian Peninsula, CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in a separate Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said a new message believed to be from Osama bin Laden says he "is in partnership with Iraq."

Powell said he reviewed a transcript of the message, which he said was to air on the Al-Jazeera Arab news satellite television channel, which operates out of Qatar. "(Bin Laden) speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq," Powell said.

Asked for reaction to Powell's claim, Al-Jazeera denied it had such a message from bin Laden, saying news of it was a rumor that has been circulating for several weeks.

During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Tenet said the reports of planned attacks are "the most specific we have seen" and are consistent with previous al Qaeda plots.

"This is not idle chatter on the part of the terrorists," he said, adding the number of messages being sent to and by terrorists is the highest since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

U.S. officials Friday raised the color-coded terrorist threat level to orange -- or high -- from yellow, or elevated. Tenet said al Qaeda is "still dedicated to striking the U.S. homeland."

Tenet said the chatter "points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersion device as well as poisons and chemicals," he said, referring to devices similar to the so-call "dirty bomb."

Tenet's public testimony comes as the United States threatened military action against Iraq and North Korea has threatened to resume its nuclear program.

"We see disturbing signs that al Qaeda has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq," Tenet said. "In addition we are concerned that al Qaeda continues to find refuge in the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

FBI Director Robert Mueller also testified at the Senate intelligence hearing.

"The enemies we face are resourceful, merciless and fanatically committed to inflicting massive damage on our homeland, which they regard as a bastion of evil," Mueller said. "In this war, there can be no compromise or negotiated settlement."

Al-Jazeera denies having message

Despite Al-Jazeera's denial, Powell seemed to be taking the purported bin Laden message seriously, telling lawmakers that they would be hearing it "during the course of the day" on Al-Jazeera.

"This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored. As the president has said, 9/11 changed things," Powell told the Senate Budget Committee.

"We have a regime led by Saddam Hussein who has not accounted for all the weapons of mass destruction they've had in the past, who continues to pursue them. And we have non-state terrorist actors -- such as al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden -- that would do anything to get their hands on this kind of material."

Powell made the comments after being asked why containment would not work as a diplomatic means in dealing with Iraq.

The secretary of state said the international community has tried to no avail to contain Saddam for the past 12 years.

"They have not served to stop Saddam Hussein's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction or encouraged him to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction that we know he has," Powell said.

Iraq has denied it has weapons of mass destruction or links with al Qaeda.

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