INTERNATIONAL

Nothing new in it, says U.S.

WASHINGTON, DEC. 27. The Bush Administration officials are saying that the latest tape of the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, has nothing new in content, but intelligence agencies are perked up, much of this having to do with the whereabouts of Saudi millionaire.

``This is nothing more than the same kind of terrorist propaganda we've heard before,'' the White House Spokesman, Mr. Scott McClellan, said while dismissing the latest tape which in many ways has again justified the horrific acts against the U.S.

Osama's tape has surfaced at a time when there are at least three theories on his whereabouts: one, he is dead due to natural causes or as a result of the bombings; two, he has managed to cross over to Pakistan; three, he has fled to one of many locations that includes Yemen, Sudan, Somalia or Chechnya. In fact, the U.S. and allied ships and vessels are looking actively in the neighbouring seas.

The Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, recently said that Osama could have been killed in the bombing. But the fact that the Saudi dissident and some of his main cohorts could have slipped into an area in Pakistan that is not in the ``control'' of Islamabad continues to be a possibility that is actively nurtured in intelligence quarters.

Officially nothing much has been said of the latest tape other than perhaps it was ``made'' in the last two weeks given the kind of statements that have been made in the broadcast.

American intelligence agencies, the argument goes, does not have anything to suggest that Osama is alive. Or for that matter no one has anything conclusive that he is dead either.And much of this has been attributed to the studied radio discipline that the al Qaeda fighters have been following.

Scores of al Qaeda fighters are still believed to be hiding in the caves and tunnels of the Tora Bora area, but not giving away their location or that of their leaders. According to one report the last time bin Laden was picked up on a short range frequency was about two weeks ago giving orders to his fighters. There has been silence thereafter, it is said.

Meanwhile it is said that while U.S. forces will be poring through the rubble looking for the remains of Osama, the idea to send in additional marines and special forces to search the caves and tunnels for him has been shelved for the time being. The Pentagon is trying to rope in local Afghan fighters to do the job offering various incentives including money and clothing.