updated 9/6/2006 8:30:00 AM ET 2006-09-06T12:30:00

The top Pakistani army spokesman on Wednesday vehemently denied saying in a news report that saying Osama bin Laden would not be taken into custody if he agreed to live peacefully in Pakistan.

"This is absolutely fabricated, absurd. I never said this," Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told The Associated Press, referring to an ABC News broadcast aired hours earlier.

The ABC report cited Sultan as saying in a telephone interview that al-Qaida chief bin Laden "would not be taken into custody" if found, "as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen."

The recorded comments of Sultan were included in the report, but it was not immediately clear whether he understood that bin Laden was the specific subject of discussion at that point in the interview.

Sultan told the AP by telephone early Wednesday that "what they are saying on Osama is absolutely fabricated."

"Pakistan is committed to its policy on the war on terror and Osama, caught anywhere in Pakistan, would be brought to justice," he said.

Asked for a response to Sultan's denial, Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, told the AP by telephone on Wednesday, "We simply played his comments as we recorded them."

The ABC report also featured a former White House counterterrorism official, Richard Clarke, saying a peace accord, signed Tuesday by Pakistan's government and pro-Taliban militants in the country, meant that "the Taliban and al-Qaida leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan."

"I reject this comment," Sultan said Wednesday.

Clarke is a news consultant with ABC.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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