Bin Laden aide denies anti-US threats-news service
ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Reuters) - A deputy to Osama bin Laden was quoted on Monday as saying that an Arab reporter had met the Saudi militant but had never conducted an interview containing threats against U.S. and Israeli targets.
The Pakistan-based news service Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted Abou Hafs, whom it described as a deputy to bin Laden, as denying a report by the Arabic Television Channel MBC attributing the threats to the Saudi fugitive.
"Whatever the MBC has reported about Osama is wrong and a lie," AIP quoted Hafs as saying by telephone from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, base of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omer.
"There has been no interview with the MBC or any other organisation," he added. Hafs said the correspondent met bin Laden only as a guest and later took a picture with him.
"But neither did he interview Osama nor his close associate, Ayman Zawaheri Al-Misri," said Hafs, speaking in Arabic.
The Arabic satellite television channel reported on Saturday that followers of the exiled Saudi dissident were planning a major attack on U.S. and Israeli interests in the next two weeks.
"There is a major state of mobilisation among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?" the correspondent had said.
The station, monitored by the BBC, broadcast a report from a correspondent in the Pakistani town of Quetta, saying he had met bin Laden two days earlier in Afghanistan.
The MBC correspondent said he had visited bin Laden at an unspecified location some three hours' drive from Kandahar. He said he had also talked with some of bin Laden's followers.
On Sunday, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Osman Sheryar denied bin Laden was planning attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests.
"All of Osama's activities are under control in Afghanistan and he has no possibility to intensify his activities against any other country," Sheryar said in a statement in Kabul.
The Taliban is under U.N. sanctions, including an arms embargo, for refusing to hand over bin Laden for trial on U.S. charges of blowing up two American embassies.
Sheryar repeated bin Laden was a "guest" and would never be allowed to use Afghan soil against any country.
U.S. officials said on Sunday naval forces in the Gulf remained on alert because of a non-specific but credible threat linked to bin Laden. U.S. embassies in the area were open for business but witnesses said security was tight.
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