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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
'Al-Qaeda' denies Jordan WMD plot
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi is accused by the US of leading al-Qaeda in Iraq
Allegations that al-Qaeda was planning a chemical attack against Jordan have been denied in a new audio message.

But a voice said to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior member of the group, does say an assault was considered on Jordan's intelligence headquarters.

The tape was broadcast on the internet and Arabic television four days after Jordan said it had uncovered a chemical terror plot against targets in Amman.

Washington accuses Mr Zarqawi of being behind terrorist bombings in Iraq.

"[Reports] that there was a chemical bomb to kill thousands of people is a mere lie," the taped voice says.

"If we had such a bomb - and we ask God that we have such a bomb soon - we would not hesitate for a moment to strike Israeli towns, such as Eilat, Tel Aviv and others."

The Jordanian intelligence lied twice... to protect their masters and sponsors from the Jews and Christians
'Zarqawi' tape
The voice says the Jordanian authorities fabricated the story in order to create a smokescreen to hide "the sordid face of the Jordanian intelligence services".

He said the bomb was intended was made of primary substances available on the market - but it was intended not to harm ordinary people but to destroy the "Jordanian Mossad", referring to Israel's spy service.

"The Jordanian intelligence lied twice... to protect their masters and sponsors from the Jews and Christians," the voice says.

Correspondents say there is no way to verify the authenticity of the tape, which was made available on al-Minbar website.

Mass rally

On Thursday, Queen Rania joined thousands of Jordanians in a mass street protest against the alleged plot.

Queen Rania at Thursday's march against the alleged plot
The march attracted thousands of Jordanians
The protest was said to be the largest in recent history, attracting tribal, religious and business leaders and political activists.

Reports of the size of the match varied markedly, from conservative estimates of 20,000 to 80,000 according to Queen Rania's office, to 250,000 according to the Jordanian news agency, Petra.

Jordanian TV reported on Monday that the authorities had uncovered the chemical plot and raided the house from which the alleged al-Qaeda cell was operating on 20 April.

During the raid, four people were killed and six others were arrested. They included Azmi al-Jayusi, who was shown on TV confessing to the plot.

Officials said the plot involved attacking the intelligence department in Amman, using trucks loaded with 20 metric tons of chemicals.

The attack could have killed 80,000 people and injured twice that amount in an area of two square kilometres (a square mile), officials said.

Other possible targets included the US embassy and the prime minister's office, although officials did not provide details on these alleged plots.

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