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Friday, September 17

Reality check: Is there a connection between 9/11 and Iraq?

By John Yaukey | GNS

WASHINGTON - President Bush contends there were ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida but stops short of claiming the toppled dictator was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Sen. John Kerry says the Bush campaign - not merely Bush himself - has misled Americans by trying to claim there were closer connections between al-Qaida and Iraq than actually existed.

Here are the highlights of each candidate's position, along with what experts say.

Bush and his administration:

- Claim numerous contacts between Saddam's regime and al-Qaida.

- Say a senior Iraqi official visited Sudan to meet with Osama bin Laden in the mid-90s.

- Argue that a disputed meeting between an Iraqi operative and one of the 9/11 hijackers in Prague before the attacks cannot be disproved.

- Maintain that before the war, Iraq gave haven to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and that he was an associate of bin Laden.

Kerry and his campaign:

- Says there is no evidence of any connection between Saddam and 9/11.

- Contends Bush and his administration misled Americans on how tough Iraq would be.

- Insists Bush owes Americans a ``fundamental explanation about why he rushed to war.''

An independent panel that investigated 9/11 and experts:

- Agree on meetings between Iraqis and al-Qaida but say there is ``no credible evidence'' that Saddam helped in the 9/11 attacks.

- Believe there were meetings between an Iraqi operative and bin Laden in Sudan in 1994 but nothing came of it.

- There is no evidence of any meeting in Prague between a 9/11 hijacker and an Iraqi operative.

- Zarqawi did travel to Iraq before the war but there is no evidence of any close relationship to bin Laden.

Check for yourself on the Web:

Independent commission on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bush-Cheney campaign site.

Kerry-Edwards campaign site.