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Pentagon confirms no Saddam, al-Qaeda link -

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Pentagon confirms no Saddam, al-Qaeda link

The World Today - Friday, 14 March , 2008 12:26:00

Reporter: Barney Porter

ELEANOR HALL: The Vatican has condemned the killing of a Catholic archbishop in Iraq. The
Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped last month and his body was found overnight
in a shallow grave.

As the violence in Iraq continues with dozens more people killed in yet another car bomb in central
Baghdad overnight, a Pentagon study of 600,000 official Iraqi documents has debunked one of the key
claims the Bush administration used to justify invading the country.

It has confirmed there was no direct link between Saddam Hussein and the September 11th attacks on
the United States.

Barney Porter has more.

BARNEY PORTER: Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was abducted in late February after gunmen attacked
his car and killed his driver and two guards. His body has now been found half-buried in an empty
lot in Mosul.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government is committed to protecting Christians
who make up about three per cent of the population in mostly Muslim Iraq.

The Chaldean Church's representative in Rome, Monsignor Philip Najim, says his death is a great
sadness.

PHILIP NAJIM: He was very nice man, he was very friendly with everybody, with Muslim and the
Christian people, and it's a great loss for the Chaldean Church at the moment with the Archbishop
Faraj Rahho, he was very friendly with everybody and we are very sorry about his death.

BARNEY PORTER: Anan is a Chaldean Catholic in Baghdad. She says her fellow parishioners won't be
deterred from attending mass in lead up to the Easter weekend.

ANAN: We can't say there is no fear, but what can we do? We have to cope with the circumstances,
otherwise you see, we're going to leave our churches empty and this is not right. We go on and this
... we are part of this country, part of being Iraqis, so we need to go on living and practice our
right in worshipping God.

BARNEY PORTER: Iraqi Christians have lived in harmony with the country's Muslims for 14 centuries,
but they've suffered as a religious minority since the US-led invasion.

Canon Andrew White ran Iraq's only Anglican Church.

ANDREW WHITE: Things for Christians are so bad, things for all of the small groups in Iraq are
terrible. We have seen so many people kidnapped and killed. In my own church, we've had 58 people
killed in the past year.

BARNEY PORTER: Archbishop Rahho's death has come as a detailed Pentagon study confirmed there was
no direct link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and top aides have all insisted the links
existed, citing the alleged ties as a rationale for going to war in Iraq.

But the study of 600,000 official Iraqi documents and thousands of hours of interrogations of
former Saddam Hussein colleagues found no direct connection. Previous reports by the September 11
Commission and the Pentagon's Inspector-General last year reached the same conclusion, but they
didn't have access to as much information.

The report has been made public nearly a week before the fifth anniversary to the start of the Iraq
war, and as US lawmakers paused on Capitol Hill to remember those who've died.

The ceremony was opened by the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

NANCY PELOSI: After five years of the war in Iraq and more than six in Afghanistan, the
selflessness of our heroes continues to make us proud. War extracts a terrible price. Just in the
past three days, 12 more of our heroes have fallen in Iraq.

BARNEY PORTER: But the conflict still causes debates. Some active-duty soldiers and veterans have
opened a four-day event in Washington to protest against the war in Iraq, urging other members of
the military to join them in speaking out against the conflict.

Jason Hurd is a former army medic, and a member of the group, Iraq Veterans Against the War.

JASON HURD: The fact that we're coming up on the fifth anniversary of this war means to me that
we're coming up on five years too long of conducting this war. We could have known from the very
beginning that this war was illegal and immoral.

ELEANOR HALL: That's former army medic Jason Hurd, ending that report by Barney Porter.