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Iraq is 'Permissive Environment' for al-Qaida, says Top British Official

Britain's Foreign Secretary says Iraq provides a "permissive environment" for operations of the al-Qaida terrorist network. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also says there is no need to provide more time for United Nations weapons inspectors, as long as the Iraqi government does not fully cooperate.

Mr. Straw told British radio there is evidence of links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network, but there are still questions about the relationship.

"Certainly we have seen links between al-Qaida and various people in Iraq," said Mr. Straw. "What we do not know, and the prime minister and I have made this very clear, is the extent of those links."

The British Foreign Secretary was responding to questions about a British Ministry of Defense intelligence document leaked to the BBC. It reportedly concludes there is no current link between Iraq and al-Qaida because of mistrust and ideological differences.

In addition, Mr. Straw wrote an article for the London Times newspaper in which he said it would be "futile" to give the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq more time. He said it is becoming increasingly clear that Saddam Hussein will never voluntarily give up his weapons of mass destruction.