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Osama 'not an effective leader' of al-Qaeda right now: Cheney

Al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world, is "not an effective leader" at this stage as he cannot engage with his outfit from his current hideout.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2009 12:28 IST

Al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world, is "not an effective leader" at this stage as he cannot engage with his outfit from his current hideout, US Vice President Dick Cheney has said. "My guess is, at this point, he's operating in an area that's very difficult, very hard to get to, that he's not an effective leader at this stage because he can't really engage with his organisation without coming out of whatever hole he's hiding in," Cheney told the CNN in an interview. Asked if the Bush Administration would be able to capture bin Laden during its remaining few days in the office, Cheney said he cannot predict that, but would obviously would like to capture or kill the al-Qaeda leader.

"And the key thing for us, even if we got bin Laden on Sunday, is to take down his organisation, and that's what we've been actively doing," he said in the interview, excerpts of which were telecast on Friday.

Asked whether it is frustrating that the most dreaded terrorist of the world is still at large, Cheney replied: You know, obviously, I would like to solve that problem, but a much bigger problem, a much more important problem is keeping the country safe. And we've done that now for seven and a half years."

After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration has been able to keep the country safe through a series of measures like the terrorist surveillance programme, interrogation of high value detainees and the Patriot Act. All these steps have had a remarkable impact as there had not been another mass casualty attack on the US since 9/11, Cheney said. "That's a great achievement. And I think that's more important than getting any one individual man. Although, obviously, I'd like very much to get Osama bin Laden, I'm sure the hunt will go on after we leave," said Cheney, whose term expires on January 20.