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Official denies Iraqi contact with bin Laden

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Thursday that Iraq hasn't had contact with suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and does not know where he is.

Asked about accusations that an Iraqi diplomat had met with bin Laden, Aziz said, "We don't know the man, and we don't know his whereabouts."

CNN's Paula Zahn interviews Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz about terrorism, Osama Bin Laden and more (September 27)

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Earlier in the day, the Iraqi Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, termed as "rubbish" a report that Farouk Hijazi, Iraq's ambassador to Turkey, met bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998.

Repeating the stand taken this week by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Aziz said Iraqis are sorry for the deaths of those killed in terror attacks in Washington and New York but will not express condolences to the U.S. government.

"We don't express condolences to a government that is attacking Iraqi people on a daily basis," Aziz said.

Asked about President Bush's statement that the governments of the world are either with the terrorists or with the United States, Aziz said Bush had no moral grounds for drawing that kind of distinction.

"Many people don't agree with that kind of condition," Aziz said. "We will not condone terrorism, but at the same time we are not with the American government."

He said the Iraqi government does not practice terrorism nor is it in contact with the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.

"We don't have any relationship with the Taliban," Aziz said. "We didn't recognize the Taliban."

He said those accusing Iraq of sponsoring terrorism are looking for an excuse to attack the country.

"Those who are accusing Iraq are the warmongers," he said. "... Iraq is not a country that harbors terrorists or conducts terrorism."

Aziz also quarreled with the definition of terrorism.

"What is terrorism?" he asked. "Those who accuse Iraq say the Palestinian mujahedeen are terrorists and say the Lebanese mujahedeen are terrorists. They are not terrorists; they are heroes."


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