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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A senior Iraqi general on Thursday dismissed as "ridiculous" a published report that Iraq may have provided nerve gas to Islamic extremists affiliated with al-Qaida.
"This is really a ridiculous assumption from the American administration," Lt. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin told a news conference. "They know very well we have no prohibited substances."
Amin, the chief Iraqi liaison officer who deals with U.N. inspectors, was commenting on a report in The Washington Post that members of the al-Qaida-affiliated Asbat al-Ansar may have obtained VX nerve agents in Iraq and smuggled them out through Turkey.
"We're used to hearing such reports from the enemies of Iraq, from the intelligence services of the CIA, Britain and Mossad," he said, referring to the Israeli intelligence service.
A senior Bush administration official, commenting on the Post report, told The Associated Press that U.S. intelligence had uncorroborated information that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaida may have received a poisonous substance.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. does not know whether the material was nerve gas nor whether the extremists are linked to Saddam's government.
In Qatar, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the possibility that Iraq may have provided such materials to Islamic extremists "should come as no surprise to anybody."
Rumsfeld told ABC's "Good Morning America" he had not seen the article, but "I have seen other information over a period of time that suggests that could be happening." He said it has been know for many months, "probably years that the terrorist states have chemical weapons and have relationships with al-Qaida and that al-Qaida is trying to get such weapons."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)