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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 05:01 GMT 06:01 UK
Clinton ordered Bin Laden killing
President Clinton
Clinton: Assassination would still not be easy
Former US President Bill Clinton has admitted his administration tried to assassinate Osama Bin Laden in 1998 - but failed because it could not find him.

The move followed the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa which Bin Laden - the chief suspect in the US terrorist attacks - was suspected of masterminding.

"I authorised the arrest, and, if necessary, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and we actually made contact with a group in Afghanistan to do it - and they were unsuccessful," Mr Clinton told a news conference in New York.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden: Could not be found

He added that special forces had been trained for a ground assault.

However, he said the US lacked the necessary intelligence at the time to make this a viable option.

But Mr Clinton was more optimistic of President George W Bush's chances of success in capturing Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

He said support from countries bordering Afghanistan, such as Pakistan, as well as key members of the United Nations, gave the US more tactical options to carry out such a mission.

He said: "There are a lot of operational issues about putting ground troops in there, that I think will be still not easy.

"The president still has got some tough tactical calls to make, but I think they're clearly handling this in a very careful and deliberate and strong way."

And he said he was optimistic that a global coalition could beat an international terrorist network.

"Can this big international movement be defeated? Absolutely it can. If the world will stay together, we can."

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The BBC's Jane Peel in Washington
"With India and Pakistan now on board, the chances of success (finding Bin Laden) improve"
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