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Australia Warns al-Qaida May Use Iraq Conflict to Fuel Recruitment

The head of Australia's intelligence organization is warning that the al-Qaida terror network may use a U.S.-led war with Iraq to fuel a recruitment drive. Dennis Richardson says the group may also step up its activities.

The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization warned that the head of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, could use a war on Iraq as an excuse for new attacks around the world. Dennis Richardson told a group of business leaders on Monday that al-Qaida may strike even if the crisis over Iraq's weapons programs is resolved peacefully. "A war in Iraq, with or without U.N. sanction, may well influence the timing of some terrorist attacks but of one thing we can be absolutely certain," he said. "A peaceful solution to the current situation will be irrelevant to bin Laden's intent and purpose."

The security chief said bin Laden is an opportunist who will capitalize on global events for propaganda purposes, and to draw new recruits.

Mr. Richardson urged Australian business leaders to act to protect their companies from terror attacks.

Mr. Richardson predicts the al-Qaida network will try to carry out any plans it already has, and its main targets will remain innocent civilians. He said Australia has no choice but to join the fight against terrorism to protect its own interests.

Australia has been on high terror alert since the bombing of two nightclubs on the Indonesian island of Bali last October that killed nearly 200 people, including 88 Australians. Many of the suspects in that case have been linked to a group known to have ties to al-Qaida.

The United States says Iraq has failed to meet United Nations demands that it disarm. Washington says military action may be necessary to force Baghdad into compliance. The Australian government supports the U.S. stance and there are about 2,000 Australian troops backing up U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.