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.
The 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 dead but had no solid proof.
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."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in New York, "No comment, no knowledge," when asked about the French article.
A US intelligence source separately said Washington, which has made capturing Bin Laden a priority in its war on terrorism, had no evidence the report was any more credible than earlier rumours of his demise.
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.
Adding weight to the Saudi rebuttal was the fact that Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki Al Faisal is known for his intimate ties to his country's intelligence service, which he headed for 24 years before embarking on a diplomatic career in 2002.
In Pakistan, security officials said they had an excellent relationship with Saudi intelligence but had received no information about Bin Laden's death and believed it would be “inconceivable” that an event of this magnitude would remain unnoticed in Pakistan.
Born in Saudi Arabia to a wealthy family with close ties to the royals, bin Laden was indicted in 1998 by a federal grand jury in New York on charges of murder of US nationals outside the United States.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile said Australian officials had seen reports on the French newspaper story, and noted they were unconfirmed.
"It would be a great boost in the war against terror but it wouldn't mean the war against terror is over," Vaile
told television's Nine Network on Sunday.
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