Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Saudi Arabia denies having evidence of bin Laden's death

DEAD OR ALIVE? France has launched a probe into an intelligence service leak which said the Saudis believed that the al-Qaeda leader died last week

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND PARIS

Saudi Arabia said yesterday it had no evidence that Osama bin Laden had died, shedding further doubt on a document leaked in France that said Saudi secret services believed he died last month.

France, the US and Britain have said they were unable to confirm the report in French regional daily L'Est Republicain which quoted France's DGSE foreign intelligence service as saying the Saudi secret services were convinced the al-Qaeda leader had died of typhoid in Pakistan late last month.

Time magazine separately posted an article on its Web site citing an unidentified Saudi source, who claimed that bin Laden was stricken with a water-borne disease and may be dead.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington, however, issued a statement saying: "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no evidence to support recent media reports that Osama bin Laden is dead. Information that has been reported otherwise is purely speculative and cannot be independently verified."

French President Jacques Chirac told reporters bin Laden's death "has not been confirmed in any way whatsoever and so I have no comment to make" and that he was surprised a confidential note had been published.

France has launched a probe into the leak.

"No comment, no knowledge," said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when asked about the French article by reporters.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked in a BBC interview if he could shed light on the report, said: "No, I can't. I haven't heard anything that indicates that might be the case."

Several US intelligence officials told US media they had noticed no unusual Internet or communications "chatter" which would likely follow such a momentous development.

L'Est Republicain printed what it said was a copy of the report, dated Sept. 21, and said it was passed to Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin the same day.

"According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," it read.

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