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Allawi: Saddam connected to al-Qaida

The new Iraqi prime minister sent word to the Iraqi people that the new government will begin to take legal custody of Saddam Hussein and told NBC's Tom Brokaw he believes that Saddam was connected to al-Qaida.

The new Iraqi prime minister sent word to the Iraqi people that they will now control the fate of their old tormentor, Saddam Hussein. 

Beginning Wednesday, the Iraqi government will begin to take legal custody of Saddam.  He’ll appear in an Iraqi court on Thursday.  Iraqi officials insist he be afforded all the rights of international law — including the right to pick his own lawyer and to get expense money to pay for that lawyer if necessary.  But Saddam will not go to an Iraqi jail.  The U.S. military will continue to guard and keep him.

On Tuesday, NBC's Tom Brokaw spoke with new Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who still believes that Saddam was connected to al-Qaida.

Brokaw: As long as the United States military remains a conspicuous presence in your country working hand in glove with the new Iraqi government, won’t you always be seen really as an instrument of the U.S. military and therefore of America?

Allawi: Iraq, as everybody knows, is the front state now — as the main theater to oppose and fight terrorism.  And, with the help of international community and with the help of the region and with the help of the Iraqi people, we are going to win.  We are going to prevail.

Brokaw: I know that you and others like you are grateful for the liberation of Iraq.  But can’t you understand why many Americans feel that so many young men and women have died here for purposes other than protecting the United States?

Allawi: We know that this is an extension to what has happened in New York.  And — the war have been taken out to Iraq by the same terrorists.  Saddam was a potential friend and partner and natural ally of terrorism.

Brokaw: Prime minister, I’m surprised that you would make the connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq.  The 9/11 commission in America says there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and those terrorists of al-Qaida.

Allawi: No.  I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida.  And these relations started in Sudan.  We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism.  Now, whether he is directly connected to the September — atrocities or not,  I can’t — vouch for this.  But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists.

Among the others who will be tried with Saddam Hussein are his old deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz and the man known as “Chemical Ali,” Ali Hassan al Majid.