White House Views Bin Laden Nuclear Threat ‘Seriously’
The White House declined late Friday to directly respond to an interview in which accused terrorist Osama bin Laden claimed to have nuclear weapons, but said through a spokesman that US officials view such a threat "seriously."
"We've said that we've suspected all along that this organization has been trying to acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons," said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius, as quoted by AFP.
"We take these past statements seriously and we will do everything we can to prevent their acquisition of these materials," said Lisaius.
However Lisaius did not comment on the likelihood that bin Laden may currently posess such an arsenal.
Pakistan's respected Dawn newspaper said on Saturday that Osama bin Laden claimed in an interview inside Afghanistan this week that he had nuclear and chemical weapons and might use them in response to US attacks.
Asked where he got the weapons, bin Laden replied: “Go to the next question,'' the newspaper said.
Dawn said Hamid Mir, editor of Pakistan's Ausaf newspaper, had interviewed bin Laden on behalf of the two newspapers after being taken blindfold by jeep from Kabul on November 7.
It was not immediately possible to verify the report, but Mir told Reuters his account of the interview was correct.
Independent experts say it is unlikely bin Laden has developed a nuclear capability, according to Reuters.
The paper, which printed a photograph showing Mir with bin Laden, said it was the first interview bin Laden had granted to any journalist since the deadly September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon for which he is the prime suspect.
Dawn said Mir was taken to a location where it was extremely cold and where he could hear the firing of anti-aircraft guns.
Bin Laden then appeared with about a dozen bodyguards and Ayman Zawahri, a top lieutenant in his al Qaeda network, the newspaper said.
In the interview, bin Laden said the September 11 attacks were justified but did not claim responsibility for them.
“The September 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America's icons of military and economic power,'' bin Laden was quoted as saying.
“The American people should stop the massacre of Muslims by their government.''
There was no way of telling when the photograph showing bin Laden with Mir was taken, but the editor is known to have never previously met bin Laden, said Reuters.
The picture showed bin Laden wearing a white turban and a camouflage jacket over a long white tunic. A Kalshnikov assault rifle was propped up beside bin Laden on the cushions he was sitting on.
The newspaper quoted bin Laden as saying he was fighting a defensive struggle to protect Muslims.
“This is a defensive jihad. We want to defend our people and our land. That is why I say that if we don't get security, the Americans, too, would not get security,'' he was quoted as saying.
“This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand. This is the formula of live and let live.'' – Albawaba.com
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