White House dismisses bin Laden nuclear threat
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Bush administration dismissed claims reported Saturday in a Pakistani English-language newspaper that suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden has nuclear and chemical weapons and will use them against the United States if attacked.
In an interview with bin Laden published in Dawn -- said to have taken place November 7 -- the newspaper quoted bin Laden as saying: "I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as a deterrent."
While citing "credible indications" bin Laden has sought to obtain such weapons, Bush administration officials said they do not believe the al Qaeda leader has weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them.
"He has said for a long time he wants to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we have no choice but to take him seriously," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said. "And we will do everything we can to prevent his acquiring these weapons or the materials for these weapons."
These remarks came shortly after President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he discussed the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, America's response and future terrorist threats.
While he did not mention bin Laden by name, Bush said, "These same terrorists are searching for weapons of mass destruction, the tools to turn their hatred into holocaust. They can be expected to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons the moment they are capable of doing so."
Bin Laden: Attacks part of 'defensive Jihad'
The interview, conducted by Pakistani newspaper editor and official bin Laden biographer Hamid Mir, was bin Laden's first since the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Mir wrote that he was blindfolded and taken in a jeep from Kabul "to a place where it was extremely cold and one could hear the sound of anti-aircraft guns firing away." After a time, bin Laden arrived with a dozen bodyguards and Ayman el-Zawahri, his top lieutenant, and began answering questions.
While never explicitly taking or denying responsibility, bin Laden repeats several times that the September 11 attacks were part of a "defensive Jihad." He says Muslims are defending themselves against American attacks on the Muslims around the world, including on Palestinians, Chechnya, Kashmir, Iraq, and Bosnia.
"This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand," he says. "This is the formula of live and let live."
Bin Laden also discounts criticism issued by other Muslims against him, saying they hold no meaning for him because true Muslims support the jihad against the United States.
When asked where the nuclear weapons came from, bin Laden retorted, "Go to the next question."
Bush had warned of bin Laden's threats to use weapons of mass destruction earlier in the week, saying, "This is an evil man that we're dealing with, and I wouldn't put it past him to develop evil weapons to try to harm civilization as we know it."
When the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan was asked about nuclear weapons this week, he replied, "We can't even make glass, so how can we make nuclear weapons?"
Former envoys: Clinton gave Taliban evidence on bin Laden
November 6, 2001
Taliban warned over press briefings
November 7, 2001
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