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reports new CIA-Bin Laden details
PARIS, Nov. 1
(UPI) -- Radio France International offered additional details Thursday of
allegations that terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden met with a CIA officer
in the United Arab Emirates in July.
The CIA has dismissed as "total
absurdity" a report carried Wednesday by Radio France and by France's
Le Figaro newspaper, alleging that a CIA agent met with bin Laden at a
Dubai clinic, where the suspected terrorist was reportedly treated for
The clinic, said to be the American Hospital
in Dubai, also denied bin Laden had been a patient. The American Embassy in
Paris has not commented on the report.
The Paris-based International Herald Tribune
suggested the erroneous information may have been leaked by opponents in France
to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
"Disinformation may have been planted
... to suggest a continuing covert linkage between the CIA and bin
Laden," a French intelligence source told the Herald Tribune.
Nonetheless, Radio France International, for
one, said it stood by its report. In a follow-up Thursday, the French radio
station identified the alleged CIA agent as Larry Mitchell, "a
connoisseur of the Arab world and specialist of the (Arab) peninsula."
Mitchell's business card identified him as a
"consular agent," the radio said. In fact, RFI alleged, he was a
CIA agent and a prominent fixture in Dubai's expatriate community.
According to both the radio and Le Figaro, Mitchell was recalled to the
CIA's headquarters in McLean, Va., on July 15.
The radio also gave the precise date of
Mitchell's supposed encounter with bin Laden -- July 12, two days before
the Saudi dissident reportedly checked out of the hospital.
Neither the Figaro, nor Radio France offered
independent confirmation of the report. The radio station also cited no
source for its latest allegations. Earlier, the Figaro said its story was
leaked by a partner of the hospital's management.
In an interview published Thursday in Le
Figaro, Arab specialist Antoine Sfeir said he was not surprised on the
alleged CIA-bin Laden ties.
"Bin Laden maintained contacts with bin
Laden until 1998," Sfeir said. "Those contacts didn't end after
bin Laden moved to Afghanistan. Until the last minute, CIA agents hoped bin
Laden would return to U.S. command, as was the case before 1998."
Sfeir also maintained the information about
the CIA-bin Laden connection had been in circulation for the past 15 days.
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