CIA officials have rejected an article in the French newspaper Le Figaro reporting that one of their agents met with Osama bin laden in July when he underwent treatment for kidney problems at the American hospital in Dubai. ?Complete and utter nonsense,? says Anya Guilsher, a spokeswoman for the Central Intelligence Agency. ?It?s false, and I told Le Figaro that, too.?

Le Figaro cited a ?professional partner? who is part of the hospital?s management as its source. The head of the Dubai hospital?s Urology Department, Dr. Terry Callaway, has refused to answer questions about bin Laden?s stay. Radio France has reported that the hospital denies bin Laden was treated there.

Why bin Laden would have met with a CIA officer is unclear. Le Figaro reported that a link between the CIA and bin Laden stretches back for years, and the paper suggested that bin Laden gave the agency information regarding future terrorist strikes. The newspaper reported that two weeks after bin Laden checked out of the hospital, the United Arab Emirates arrested the mastermind behind a plot to blow up the American Embassy in Paris. The suspect, a French-Algerian named Djamel Beghal, confessed that he received his orders from bin Laden.

An anonymous American diplomat in Paris says, ?We?ll just not comment on any of that stuff. We can?t talk about meetings like that that may or may not have happened.?

This reminds us of the incident years ago, when the French magazine Paris Match reported that TWA Flight 800 had been shot down by ?friendly fire? from U.S. training maneuvers. The U.S. hotly denied this. It?s important to realize that publications like Le Figaro and Paris Match are respected news media in France, and are not like our National Enquirer, and similar papers, here. These reports may or may not be valid, but they are worth paying attention to.

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