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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314338 Iraq / Terror Wrap
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/21/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=IRAQ / TERROR WRAP (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314338

BYLINE=STEPHANIE HO

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The White House was under fire Sunday for allegedly ignoring the overall global threat of terrorism and focusing on Iraq in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. V-O-A's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

TEXT: Democratic Senator Joseph Biden told A-B-C television he believes the Iraq war detracted from U-S efforts against the al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan.

/// FIRST BIDEN ACT ///

What the pre-occupation with Iraq did was they didn't want to put more forces in there (Afghanistan). They wanted to reserve them for Iraq. We should have had many more forces.

/// END ACT ///

Senator Biden blames the Bush administration for, in his words, taking the focus off the problem too soon.

/// SECOND BIDEN ACT ///

I am much more concerned about the safety of my granddaughter in school here in Washington because of al-Qaida than I am with ten Saddam Husseins. And we took our eye off the ball because of a preoccupation with Iraq.

/// END ACT ///

The senator's comments come amid accusations by former White House counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke that the Bush administration ignored the threat from al-Qaida.

In an interview (that will air) Sunday (evening), Mr. Clarke says almost immediately after the September 11th attacks, President Bush directly asked him to find out whether there was a link between Iraq and the suicide hijackings.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel told A-B-C Television he is concerned by Mr. Clarke's allegations that the Bush administration did not give adequate attention to al-Qaida.

/// HAGEL ACT ///

Without bringing this to the highest levels of government and putting the appropriate focus on it, with the responsible players, then it is going to get lost. And according to Clarke's book, or at least what I read of it, that's much of what he charges here, that it did get lost, that it wasn't a priority, and that's a very serious charge.

/// END ACT ///

Meanwhile, another Republican senator, John McCain, defended the Bush administration on "Fox News Sunday." Senator McCain said he believes U-S actions showed that Washington did pursue the right policy.

/// MCCAIN ACT ///

My reaction is in the days after September 11th, I hope there were thousands of discussions about various countries and the threat that might be posed to the United States of America -- including Iran, including Syria, or others. But I know that this administration did the right thing by going to Afghanistan, taking out al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

/// END ACT ///

A new book by Mr. Clarke goes on sale to the public Monday. In it, the former senior White House counterterrorism official details his observations after 30 years in government service, including time as head of the secretive Counterterrorism and Security Group -- which includes representatives from the F-B-I, C-I-A, Justice Department and armed services. Mr. Clarke retired last year. (SIGNED)

NEB/SHO/MEM



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