Washington : US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had ordered his top lieutenant in Iraq to organise terrorist attacks in foreign countries, including against the United States.
Bin Laden instructed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2005 to form terrorist cells to design plans for striking on US soil, Bush said during a graduation ceremony at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
Bush's speech was based on intelligence declassified by the White House Tuesday aimed at reviving public support for the conflict in Iraq by calling it the "central front" in the war on terrorism.
Al-Zarqawi was Al Qaeda's top operative in Iraq until he was killed in a US air strike in June 2006. Bush said the intelligence allowed the US to break up the plots.
Bush said bin Laden wants to mould Iraq into a sanctuary for planning worldwide terrorist attacks, emphasising the need to support the US military's efforts to defeat Al Qaeda.
"Despite the setbacks that Al Qaeda has suffered it remains extremely dangerous," Bush said.
Bush is under pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, although Democrats have backed off including deadlines in legislation to fund the war. He has refused to accept any timetable for an American pullout.
Bush's counter-terrorism advisor Fran Townsend told reporters that the US government thwarted the Al Qaeda plots. Three of them were aviation related, she said.
"It's not that we have specific targets in the US, but we do have a greater understanding of what bin Laden and Al Qaeda's intentions were," Townsend said.