"I nearly got him once": Bill Clinton arriving at Sydney's Randwick racecourse for a charity dinner on September 8, 2001.“I nearly got him once”: Bill Clinton arriving at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse for a charity dinner on September 8, 2001. Photo: Reuters

New York: Former President Bill Clinton said he “could have killed” Osama bin Laden in remarks to an audience in Australia the day before al Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on the United States, according to an audio tape that emerged this week.

Clinton and officials from his administration have expressed similar sentiments both before and after the September 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people but the recording appears to have attracted attention because he was speaking less than 36 hours before al Qaeda hijackers would board four airliners for attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.

On the tape Clinton said he declined to pursue one opportunity to kill bin Laden in Afghanistan because it would have risked killing hundreds of civilians.

Michael Kroger, the former head of Australia's Liberal Party, told Sky News he only recently recalled he had the recording.Michael Kroger, the former head of Australia’s Liberal Party, told Sky News he only recently recalled he had the recording. Photo: Rodger Cummins

“And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden – he’s a very smart guy. I spent a lot of time thinking about him. And I nearly got him once,” Clinton can be heard saying as people in the audience laugh.

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“I nearly got him,” Clinton continues. “And I could have killed him but I would have had to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and killed 300 innocent women and children and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

The recording was made with Clinton’s knowledge by Michael Kroger, the former head of Australia’s Liberal Party, at a speaking engagement in Melbourne on September 10, 2001, Kroger told Australia’s Sky News, which broadcast the 30-second excerpt.

Osama bin Laden in 2001.Osama bin Laden in 2001. Photo: Reuters

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/bill-clinton-said-he-could-have-killed-osama-bin-laden-to-australian-audience-on-day-before-911-20140802-zzou8.html#ixzz39CdR5Lsw

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FILE - In this May 1, 2011, image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to obscure the details of a document in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at right with hand covering mouth, President Barack Obama, second from left, Vice President Joe Biden, left, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, right, and members of the national security team watch an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. When Obama first spoke of bin Laden's demise, he asked the nation to think back to the unity of Sept. 11. Now the killing of America’s most wanted is something else: a concentrated campaign weapon against Mitt Romney, even a bumper sticker message. (AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza)
In this May 1, 2011, image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to obscure the details of a document in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at right with hand covering mouth, President Obama, second from left, Vice President Biden, left, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, right, and members of the national security team watch an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. AP Photo/The White House, Pete Souza