WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had no evidence that Osama bin Laden had died, shedding further doubt on a secret document leaked in France that said Saudi secret services believed he had died last month. France, the United States and Britain have said they were unable to confirm the report in French regional daily L Est Republicain which quoted France s DGSE foreign intelligence service as saying the Saudi secret services were convinced the Al-Qaeda leader had died of typhoid in Pakistan in late August. Time magazine separately posted an article on its Web site citing an unidentified Saudi source, who claimed bin Laden was stricken with a water-borne disease and may already be dead. The Saudi Embassy in Washington, however, issued a statement saying: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no evidence to support recent media reports that Osama bin Laden is dead. Information that has been reported otherwise is purely speculative and cannot be independently verified.
French President Jacques Chirac told reporters bin Laden s death has not been confirmed in any way whatsoever and so I have no comment to make and that he was surprised a confidential note had been published. France has launched a probe into the leak. No comment, no knowledge, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when asked about the French article by reporters in New York. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked in a BBC interview if he could shed light on the report, said: No, I can t. I haven t heard anything that indicates that might be the case.
A U.S. intelligence source said Washington, which wants to capture bin Laden, had no evidence the report was any more credible than earlier rumors of his death. We ve heard these things before and have no reason to think this is any different, said the U.S. intelligence official, who asked not to be named. L Est Republicain, published in Nancy, printed what it said was a copy of the report, dated Sept. 21, and said it was passed to Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin the same day. According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead, it read. The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of Al-Qaeda fell victim, while he was in Pakistan on Aug. 23, 2006 to a very serious case of typhoid that led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs.
Saudi-born bin Laden was based in Afghanistan until its Taliban government was overthrown by U.S.-backed forces after Al-Qaeda s Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Since then, U.S. and Pakistani officials have said they believe he is hiding somewhere on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Bin Laden is rumored to have been suffering from kidney ailments and receiving dialysis treatment. His last videotaped message was released in late 2004 but several low-quality audio tapes have been released this year. Time magazine said its source claimed Saudi officials have received a number of reports in recent weeks that bin Laden had been struck by a water-borne illness and was likely to be dead but it had no solid proof. There was skepticism about whether Riyadh was well-placed to be the first to pick up on such a development. If anyone was in the picture, I doubt it would be Saudi intelligence, a Western diplomat in Riyadh said. Even if Saudi Arabia had information, they d pass it on to the United States, not France. It doesn t ring true. -Additional reporting by reporters in Paris, London, New York, Washington and Riyadh