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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 13:46 GMT
Bin Laden nuclear threat dismissed
Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda chief  Ayman al-Zawahri
Bin Laden gave an interview in a secret location
Apparent claims by Osama Bin Laden that he has nuclear weapons have been played down by Britain, Russia and Pakistan.

UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon told the BBC on Sunday that Bin Laden may have nuclear materials, but probably does not have the capability to build a bomb.

"But certainly we have to be very careful. This is a thoroughly dangerous man," Mr Hoon said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told reporters at the United Nations that he could "not imagine" that the al-Qaeda leader had the capability to either produce or store nuclear weapons.

Dawn newspaper
The interview was on the front page of Dawn
President Vladimir Putin also said he thought it was "unlikely" that Bin Laden possessed weapons of mass destruction, Russian news agencies reported, but added that such threats could not be ignored.

Bin Laden is reported to have claimed in an interview with a leading Pakistani newspaper that he has nuclear and chemical weapons and might use them in response to US attacks on Afghanistan.

Mr Musharraf said that sophisticated engineering was needed to produce nuclear weapons, to keep them stable and to deliver them.

He could not believe that Bin Laden had such expertise at his disposal.

Weapons 'a deterrent'

But he said it was a "possibility" that he had been able to produce chemical weapons.

The Pakistani Dawn newspaper's English version 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."

In an Urdu-language version of the article translated by the BBC, he makes no such claim, but the Pakistani journalist who interviewed Bin Laden confirmed that the militant did make the statement.

President Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf: Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure
Mr Putin, who will hold a summit with US President George W Bush in America next week, said he was confident that no weapons of mass destruction could have reached Bin Laden via Russia or the former Soviet Union.

But he said such threat should not be ignored and added: "We know about Bin Laden's links with certain radical circles in Pakistan and Pakistan is a nuclear power."

Mr Musharraf has insisted that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is well protected.

Efforts reinforced

Bin Laden is believed by America and its allies to be behind the suicide attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September.

He is currently hiding in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling Taleban.

President Bush, when asked about Bin Laden's latest claims, said: "The only I know for sure about him is that he is evil."

He said the remarks would only reinforce the efforts of the US-led international coalition to root out terrorism.

The BBC's Susannah Price
"Osama bin Laden said that they had the weapons as a deterrent"
See also:

10 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden 'has nuclear weapons'
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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