A top al-Qaida leader captured in Pakistan months after the September 11 terror strikes was the main source of now-discredited intelligence claiming Iraq provided chemical and biological arms training to members of the group, the paper reported on Saturday.

Quoting unnamed US intelligence officials, the daily said "Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi, a member of Usama bin Ladin's inner circle, recanted the claims sometime last year, but not before they had become the basis of statements by President [George] Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and others about links between Iraq and al-Qaida that involved poisons, gases and other illicit weapons."

Al-Libi, captured in Pakistan in December 2001, "is still being held by the Central Intelligence Agency at a secret interrogation centre, and American officials say his now-recanted claims raise new questions about the value of the information obtained from such detainees", the report said.

"Separate from the question of Mr Libi's account, an internal CIA review of its prewar intelligence on Iraq is still underway, continuing a push to evaluate the information used as a rationale for war," the report added.

"The strongest White House assertions of ties between Iraq and al-Qaida that involved illicit weapons were made beginning in October 2002, when Mr Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati that 'we've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb making and poisons and gases'."

Ahead of the US-led invasion in March 2003, those claims were repeated by Bush and top advisers, but they have not repeated them recently, the report noted.

However, some observers blame the Bush administration for not doing enough to verify information obtained from foreign detainees before using the information as a reason to launch the war on Iraq.