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Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 12:25 GMT
Bin Laden 'has nuclear weapons'
Osama Bin Laden with Hamid Mir
Bin Laden was in high spirits during the interview
Osama Bin Laden has told the mass-circulation Dawn newspaper in Pakistan that his al-Qaeda group possesses chemical and nuclear weapons.

But, while the English-language newspaper carries a clear message from Bin Laden that he has access to such weapons, he makes no such claim in an Urdu-language version of the interview.

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, the editor of the Urdu-language newspaper Ausaf, conducted the interview with Bin Laden, who is widely held responsible for the suicide attacks on the United States two months ago.

Dawn's English version quotes Bin Laden as saying: "If America used chemical and nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as a deterrent."

My cause will continue after my death ...This war has been spread all over the world

Osama Bin Laden

Mr Mir then asks Bin Laden where he got the weapons, which the al-Qaeda leader declines to answer.

But in the Urdu version of the article, Bin Laden does not threaten to use nuclear or chemical weapons.

"The US is using chemical weapons against us and it has also decided to use nuclear weapons. But our war will continue," he says, according to the BBC's own translation of the Ausaf article.

The two versions are otherwise very similar, says the BBC Monitoring unit.

Mr Mir told the BBC he was wrapped in a blanket and taken by jeep to meet the al-Qaeda leader at a location about five hours drive from the capital, Kabul.

He said Bin Laden was in high spirits and apparently healthy, but was surrounded by tight security.

The Dawn newspaper said this was the first interview given by Bin Laden since the 11 September attacks.

Ayman al-Zawrahi
Ayman al-Zawrahi is head of the Egyptian al-Jihad
Mr Mir is known to have met Osama bin Laden in the past.

Bin Laden told Mr Mir al-Qaeda's mission was to spread the word of God, not to massacre people.

He said: "I am ready to die. I know that they can bomb this place also. They are not aware that I am present here. But they are dropping bombs blindly everywhere. So I may get killed even with you.

"But my cause will continue after my death. They think they will solve this problem by killing me. It's not easy to solve this problem. This war has been spread all over the world."

Bin Laden refused to say whether or not he was behind the US attacks, describing the targets as the American icons of military and economic power.

He accused the US and its allies of massacring Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq and said they had the right to attack America in reprisal.

He said the whole of America was responsible for what he called the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims.

When asked about Pakistan's role, he said his group was disappointed by President Pervez Musharraf and the majority of Pakistan was against him.

Video message

Earlier, a senior member of al-Qaeda said the group remained intact despite over a month of US bombing of Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's sons have also appeared on al-Jazeera
Speaking in a video message to the al-Jazeera TV station, Ayman al-Zawrahi said what he called the jihad or holy war would not end until all American Jewish troops had been expelled from all Muslim states.

He accused President George W Bush of lying when he said the bombing campaign had destroyed al-Qaeda and hurt the Taleban.

The issue of Palestine, he said, was the crux of the conflict, and al-Qaeda would continue to fight until what he termed "every last US Jewish soldier" had left Palestine, the Arabian peninsula, and all Muslim countries.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"This is the first interview with Bin Laden since September 11th"
Journalist Hamid Mir
describes his encounter with Osama Bin Laden
See also:

26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Bin Laden's 'nuclear threat'
14 Oct 01 | UK
Bin Laden's son defiant
08 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden sons 'fighting with Taleban'
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
10 Jan 01 | Media reports
Bin Laden at son's Afghan wedding
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