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US Discounting Reports bin Laden in Pakistan - 2001-12-13

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is playing down reports that al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden may have fled Afghanistan.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he has seen reports that Osama bin Laden may have escaped into neighboring Pakistan. But he says he is not convinced. "We think he's in Afghanistan. We are chasing him. He is hiding. He does not want us to know where he is. We are asking everyone we can to help," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also denying reports the United States is trying to kill al-Qaida fighters and has scuttled efforts by Afghan forces to get them to give up. He says there can be no deals but the Pentagon favors surrender.

Defense officials admit, though, that U.S. forces in Afghanistan have had no direct contact with al-Qaida forces holed up in the Tora Bora area. They also say there have been no efforts to drop leaflets there to urge surrender.