documents reveal that Paris shared with Baghdad the contents of private trans-Atlantic meetings and diplomatic traffic from Washington.

from: newsposter

LONDON - Two newspapers reported that they found documents in the bombed out headquarters of Iraq's intelligence service that appear to show that Saddam Hussein's regime met with an al-Qaida envoy in 1998 and sought to arrange a meeting with Osama bin Laden.

Papers found by reporters working for the Toronto Star and Britain's Sunday Telegraph appear to show that purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qaida based on their mutual hatred of the United States and Saudi Arabia, the newspapers reported in their Sunday editions.

The 1998 meeting went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad, said the newspapers, which had reporters working together with Iraqi translators on the story.

Journalists found the documents in the rubble of one of the rooms of the intelligence headquarters, the papers said.

Bin Laden's name appears three times in the handwritten file, with each reference clumsily concealed with white-out correction fluid and then blackened with ink, the Toronto Star wrote.

The Toronto Star recounted how a translator named Amir scraped off the white correction fluid to reveal bin Laden's name.

``It says bin Laden! It says bin Laden,'' the Toronto Star quoted Amir as exclaiming.

One of the pages, dated Feb. 19, was marked ``top secret and urgent'' and referred to plans for the trip from Sudan of the unnamed envoy, who is described in the file as a trusted confidant of bin Laden's, the Sunday Telegraph said.

The document, signed, ``MDA,'' which the Telegraph said is a code name believed to belong to the director of one of the Iraqi intelligence sections, said the Iraqis sought to pay for the envoy's costs while in Iraq ``to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden.''

The message to bin Laden ``would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him,'' the Telegraph quoted the document as saying.

The other documents confirm that the envoy traveled from Khartoum in Sudan to Baghdad in March 1998 and that he stayed at the al-Mansour Melia hotel, it said.

The documents do not mention whether any meeting took place between bin Laden and Iraqi officials, the Telegraph said.

Separately, The Sunday Times reported that its own journalists had found documents in the Iraqi foreign ministry that indicate that France gave Saddam Hussein's regime regular reports on its dealings with American officials.

The newspaper said the documents reveal that Paris shared with Baghdad the contents of private trans-Atlantic meetings and diplomatic traffic from Washington.

One document, dated Sept. 25, 2001, from Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri to Saddam's palace, was based on a briefing from the French ambassador in Baghdad and covered talks between presidents Jacques Chirac and George W. Bush.



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