CIA Says It Didn't Meet With bin Laden
WASHINGTON – CIA officials Wednesday rejected a French newspaper report that one of their agents allegedly met with terrorist mastermind Osama bin laden in July.
The Saudi underwent treatment for kidney problems at an American hospital in Dubai, France's Le Figaro newspaper reported Wednesday.
"Complete and utter nonsense," said Anya Guilsher, a spokeswoman for the Central Intelligence Agency. "It's false, and I told Le Figaro that, too."
Bin Laden reportedly checked into American Hospital Dubai, a 100-bed, acute-care general hospital, on July 4 and stayed until July 14. He arrived from Quetta, Pakistan, accompanied by his doctor and a close aide, possibly Ayman el Zawahiri, a leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, the newspaper said.
Le Figaro cited a "professional partner" linked to the hospital's management as its source.
Besides a stream of local dignitaries and family members, bin Laden's visitors included a CIA agent, the newspaper claimed. The agent was widely recognized locally, Le Figaro said, and later told several friends of the meeting.
The alleged American agent was called back to the CIA's McLean, Va., headquarters on July 15, a day after bin Laden checked out, Le Figaro reported, citing "authorized sources."
Why bin Laden would have met with a CIA officer, or vice versa, is unclear. Even before the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, the Saudi millionaire figured among America's top terrorist suspects, blamed for several earlier plots against U.S. targets, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
But the French newspaper asserted that a CIA-bin Laden link stretched back years, and the paper appeared to suggest that bin Laden gave the agency information regarding future terrorist strikes.
"The Dubai meeting is therefore a logical follow to a 'certain American policy,'" the newspaper said.
In particular, the newspaper noted that just two weeks after bin Laden checked out of the Dubai hospital, United Arab Emirates security agents arrested the alleged mastermind of a plot to blow up the American Embassy in Paris. The suspect, a French-Algerian named Djamel Beghal, earlier confessed to receiving his orders from bin Laden, according to French news media citing his written confession.
An American diplomat in Paris refused to comment on the Figaro article, or on reported allegations of an emergency meeting in Paris in August between high-level French and American intelligence officials.
"We'll just not comment on any of that stuff," he said. "We can't talk about meetings like that that may or may not have happened."
Le Figaro said bin Laden had serious kidney problems, and reportedly had a dialysis machine imported to Afghanistan last year. Citing a March 2000 report by Asia Week, the newspaper said bin Laden's illness stemmed from "a renal infection that has spread to the liver, and needs specialized treatment."
The head of the Dubai hospital's Urology Department, Terry Callaway, reportedly refused to answer questions about bin Laden's alleged stay. Radio France reported Wednesday that the American hospital has denied bin Laden was treated there. Copyright 2001 by United Press International.