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Gary Younge
Bin Laden allegedly planned to kill Clinton

According to Newsday, the assassination was planned to take place during Mr Clinton's visit to the Philippines in November 1994, but was abandoned because of heavy security. The second plot was foiled when Mr Clinton's trip to Pakistan in February this year was cancelled.

Counter-terrorism and intelligence sources say Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York, was due to carry out the killing in Manila.

He allegedly told FBI agents escorting him to New York for his bombing trial that he planned to kill Mr Clinton by blowing up his motorcade with a missile or explosives, but gave up because the security was so tight.

Yousef, it is reported, did not say Mr Bin Laden was behind the plot. But one of his co-defendants, Walk Khan Amin Shah, once a senior aide to Mr Bin Laden, allegedly said the order had come from the Saudi millionaire, who now lives in Afghanistan.

Officials in the Clinton administration were due to reveal the Manila plot last Thursday, when they announced cruise missile attacks on Mr Bin Laden's bases in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan. They changed their minds because they did not wish to convey the impression that Mr Clinton had authorised the strikes for personal reasons.

Evidence of the second assassination plot is alleged to have come from Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, the man believed to have constructed the bomb that destroyed the US embassy in Nairobi.

'Bin Laden organised the formation of a group to plan Clinton's assassination,' said an FBI insider. 'But the plan was cancelled because the trip was cancelled.'

Meanwhile efforts by the US to negotiate with the Taliban, the Islamic regime that controls most of Afghanistan, to hand over Mr Bin Laden in return for diplomatic recognition or aid have been rebuffed.

The Taliban's leader, Mohammed Omar, has told the US there is nothing to talk about after the air strikes which killed 21 people. 'We told the Americans, 'What's left for talks now? Everything was finished after the rocket attacks',' he said in an interview from his headquarters in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan.

An official at the US embassy in Afghanistan, Richard Hoagland, confirmed that the US had tried to reopen a dialogue with the Taliban, which controls 90 per cent of the country. 'We are of course interested in talking to the Taliban about Bin Laden and other international terrorist threats,' he said.

'As part of this dialogue the United States has urged the Taliban to honour internationally-recognised norms on human rights, narcotics and terrorism, including the need to restrain Mr Bin Laden from using Afghan territory to plan, organise and launch terrorist attacks.' Mullah Omar has reprimanded Mr Bin Laden for delivering his anti-American rhetoric from within Afghanistan but has resolutely refused to abandon his friend, ally and the source of a great deal of Taliban funds.

'We will never hand Osama over to anyone,' he said. 'We will protect him with our life.' He also called on the US either to provide proof of terrorist activity in Afghanistan and Sudan or pay compensation and apologise for its missile attacks.

'It would be a matter of great embarrassment and shame for the United States and its intelligence agencies if America was unable to prove internationally that Osama bin Laden was involved in bombings of US embassies in east Africa and that the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan was making chemical weapons,' he told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency.

Journalists who visited the site of the bombed Shifa factory in north-east Khartoum say they saw no sign of the manufacturing of chemical weapons.

US investigators say they have soil samples from the factory which contain traces of a chemical used to make deadly VX gas.

Mullah Omar also ridiculed Mr Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. 'Under our Islamic law the punishment (for adultery) is stoning to death,' he said. 'But he is an American and I do not know what punishment there is for this person, but I would say it is an extremely shameful and an embarrassing scandal.'

In June a grand jury in New York indicted Mr Bin Laden for terrorist acts against the US. The indictment would give US authorities the right to capture him and bring him to the US to stand trial, although it was not clear last night precisely what alleged crimes the indictment covered.

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