Powell: Bin Laden to Transmit Message to Iraqi People
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2003 Osama bin Laden - or someone "we believe to be bin Laden" - will be sending a message of solidarity to the people of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell advised the Senate this morning.
Powell told the Senate Budget Committee that bin Laden had sent a message to the Qatar-based Arab network Al Jazeera for broadcast today.
"You'll be seeing this as the day unfolds, where once again he speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq," Powell said. (The bin Laden message began airing internationally after Powell's Senate appearance.)
Al Jazeera first denied there was such a tape, according to published media reports. The network later admitted to having a message in which bin Laden calls on Muslims to "unite in defending the Iraqi people."
Powell said the message is stronger proof of a nexus between international terrorist networks and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The Bush administration has alluded to such a connection since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, but evidence has been in short supply.
During his Feb. 5 address to the U.N. Security Council, Powell provided compelling evidence about Iraq harboring a known al Qaeda poison expert.
"As I tried to demonstrate before the United Nations last week, there are linkages (between terrorist networks and Iraq)," Powell said today. The links may not be as conclusive as some people would like, but they're firm enough indication that terrorists such as al Qaeda will have weapons of mass destruction if Hussein has the chance to develop them, he said.
Powell said it was this "linkage" that persuaded him that containment was no longer the right course in dealing with Iraq. Answering a senator's question why, Powell admitted he was a longtime supporter of "smart sanctions," but now realizes they are not enough.
"We found that even with all of these containment efforts of the past 12 years, they have not served to stop Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, or to encourage him to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction that we know he has," the secretary said. "Notwithstanding all our efforts at containment, we see evidence that he continues to try to break out of the box."