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9/11 panel stands by Iraq finding

WASHINGTON -- The Sept. 11 commission yesterday stood by its finding that Al Qaeda had only limited contact with Iraq before the terrorist attacks, a determination disputed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The bipartisan panel issued a one-sentence statement saying it had access to the same information as Cheney, who suggested strong ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

Those ties were a central justification the Bush administration gave for going to war with Iraq and were called into question after the commission released a preliminary report last month. The report cited contacts between Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden but said there was no ''collaborative relationship."

Cheney criticized the finding in a CNBC interview and said there ''probably" was data about Iraq's links to terrorists that the commission members did not learn during their investigation. The commission disputed that.

''After examining available transcripts of the vice president's public remarks, the 9/11 commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks," the commission said.

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