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Britain: No Evidence Iraq Involved in US Terror Attacks - 2001-10-29

Britain says there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September's terrorist attacks in the United States. The question has come up as the British defense secretary prepares to visit Washington.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon was asked if Iraq might have supported recent terrorist attacks against the United States. "There is no evidence linking Iraq to the events of the 11th of September," he said. "There is no evidence either, so far, that links Iraq to the anthrax attacks in the United States."

Mr. Hoon spoke a day before he travels to Washington, where there has been debate over whether the war against terrorism should target Iraq.

Britain says Iraq should not be attacked without evidence of Baghdad's involvement with the al-Qaida terrorist network based in Afghanistan.

The Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper it is "just a matter of time" before Britain and the United States extend the war to his country.

On other matters, Defense Secretary Hoon said that in the first three weeks the military campaign in Afghanistan has "dramatically undermined" al-Qaida's ability to carry out more terrorist attacks.

Also, he says the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan remain under "considerable pressure" to give up Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect behind the September 11attacks.

Mr. Hoon was asked about the latest U.S. bombings of Red Cross food warehouses in Afghanistan. He said the storage facilities were inside a Taleban military compound, surrounded by military vehicles. "So I think there is an interesting question as to why it is that large amounts of Red Cross aid are sitting inside a military compound controlled by the Taleban regime," said Geoff Hoon.

Mr. Hoon said it may be impossible to suspend military operations during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He said the anti-terrorism coalition can not afford to let Osama bin Laden and the Taleban regroup, though he said Muslim sensitivities will be taken fully into account.