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Sources: Interview with bin Laden never aired

DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language television network based in Qatar, conducted an exclusive interview with Osama bin Laden in October but never aired it because the correspondent appeared cowed, sources at the network told CNN.

The tape shows bin Laden refusing to cooperate with the Al-Jazeera correspondent by not answering questions and dictating his own questions and answers.

Al-Jazeera officials have publicly denied knowing that such an interview took place. But sources at the network said the interview did take place and network officials decided not to air it after reviewing the tape.

The interview is not the same tape the Bush administration plans to release showing bin Laden soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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The New York Times, citing American and Middle Eastern government officials, quoted an official who saw the interview as saying the Al-Jazeera correspondent "looked like a wimp."

The network's decision not to air the bin Laden interview followed a meeting in October between Vice President Dick Cheney and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin-Khalifah Al Thani. During that meeting, Cheney aired U.S. complaints about Al-Jazeera's broadcasts of tapes provided to it by bin Laden's organization in Kabul.

The tape of the Al-Jazeera interview -- transmitted back to Doha, Qatar, via satellite and monitored by a number of intelligence agencies, according to the Times -- has circulated among Arab government officials and others in the Middle East after the network declined to air it.

The Times quoted a government official as saying that "it seemed like people everywhere in the Middle East had seen the tape, including the king of Jordan."

Britain and United States obtained copies of the interview, the newspaper said, and on November 14, British Prime Minister Tony Blair cited it to support the case that bin Laden was responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Blair at the time would only say that it was "an inflammatory interview, which has been circulating, in the form of a video, among supporters in the al Qaeda network."

Blair said during the interview bin Laden said "the battle has been moved inside America, and we shall continue until we win this battle, or die in the cause and meet our maker."

Blair also quoted bin Laden as saying that "the bad terror is what America and Israel are practicing against our people, and what we are practicing is the good terror that will stop them doing what they are doing."

Bin Laden released a videotaped statement broadcast on Al-Jazeera on October 7, the day the U.S.-led military campaign began in Afghanistan.

Speaking of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, bin Laden said, "This is America, God has sent one of the attacks ... and has attacked one of its best buildings.

"And what America is facing today is something very little of what we have tasted for decades. Our nation, since nearly 80 years is tasting this humility," he said. "Sons are killed, and nobody answers the call."


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