Link to hijack plot 'fabricated by wicked UK'

Terror in America: Iraq
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The Independent Online

Iraq denied yesterday that its intelligence service had any links with Mohamed Atta, the man believed to have piloted one of the hijacked airliners into the World Trade Centre last week.

US intelligence sources claimed that Mr Atta had met "mid-ranking" Iraqi intelligence officers last year at an unspecified European location. There was no suggestion, however, that Iraq was directly involved in last week's attacks.

Yesterday, Naji Sabri, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, flatly denied reports of such a meeting. "There is no such thing at all,'' he said. "The US administration and its allies know very well that we have no relation whatsoever with groups that are being accused now by the US of committing what happened in the United States."

The Iraqi News Agency said yesterday that Mr Sabri met foreign ambassadors in Baghdad and told them "the wicked United Kingdom is attempting to include Iraq in baseless accusations [about the attacks]". It did not say why the minister blamed Britain.

While senior Bush administration figures, including Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, have said there is no evidence to link the attacks with Baghdad, Iraq has continued to blame American policies.

Mr Sabri told an Iraqi weekly newspaper earlier this week: "It is unreasonable for the United States to impose on the world its definition of terrorism and include any armed action that targets its interests, policies, injustices.''

American and British planes bombed a southern Iraqi missile site on Tuesday, but spokesmen for the allies said that the attack was unrelated to the events in America and was part of the two countries' response to Iraqi hostility in an allied-patrolled "no-fly" zone.

Meanwhile, the family of Mr Atta denied that he was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre's twin towers. His father, Mohamed al-Amir Atta, told The New York Times that his son was afraid of flying.

While he confirmed that the photographs of his son were genuine, he believed that his son may have been murdered and his documents stolen.

Speaking at his home in Cairo, Egypt, Mr Atta said: "Mohamed. Oh God. He is so decent, so shy and tender. He was so gentle. I used to tell him, 'Toughen up, son'."

He said that he knew little of his son's life in either Germany or the United States, but said that he presumed he was furthering his education there. His son was last in Egypt a year ago, he said.

Mr Atta also dismissed reports that his son would have been drinking alcohol prior to launching the attacks.

"My son is a hijacker and drinks vodka?" he said. "It is like accusing a decent, veiled girl of smuggling prostitutes into Egypt. It is nonsense, imagination."