LONDON - A son of Osama bin Laden says he is working with Saudi Arabia and Iran to end his separation from a group of brothers and sisters that dates back to the chaos in Afghanistan following the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11 2001.
In an interview with Reuters, Omar bin Laden said bin Laden's children were trying to be good citizens of the world but suffered from the lack of a father and the stigma of being their father's offspring. None were part of al Qaeda, he said.
We are working with the Iranian government and with the Saudi government at the moment to have my mother's children and grandchildren join us, Omar bin Laden said by email.
Many people in the world do not want to give us a chance because our father is Osama Bin Laden. This is wrong. None of us were al Qaeda. None of us were supporters of violence. If you read otherwise, then you are reading an untruth.
We do what we can to support our families and to be good citizens of the world. That is all we can do.
PRAYING FOR IMAN'S RETURN
In Tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment. In Riyadh, foreign ministry spokesman Osama al-Noghali could not be reached for comment.
Media reports have said several children of bin Laden and his first wife Najwa fled to Iran during the 2001 U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and have lived there under house arrest.
Omar bin Laden did not indicate the legal status of his relatives in Iran but said they included Othman, aged about 25, Fatima, about 22, and Iman, about 17, plus Hamza, a son of bin Laden and his third wife Khairiyah, plus Khairiyah herself.
Another of Najwa's sons, Ladin, also known as Bakr, aged about 15, had recently been allowed to leave and was reunited with his mother, who is living in Syria, Omar bin Laden said.
My mother has suffered a lot from the loss of her children, as any mother suffers who loses a child. She has Ladin (Bakr) with her now, so that is a start, Omar bin Laden said.
We are happy to see this young man who was only a child pleading to go with us when we left Afghanistan. His sadness on our departure has haunted my mother and me since that day. So we are very happy to have him at our table. We are praying for Iman's return. After that, we want to see them all.
On Jan. 2 Saudi Arabia urged Iran to allow Iman to leave the country if she wished, after a Saudi daily reported Iman had fled house arrest and was at the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
On Dec 24. Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said she would be able to leave Iran once her identify had been confirmed and the proper permits had been obtained.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and non-Arab Iran have been marked by regional rivalry and mutual mistrust due mainly to sectarian tensions in the region between Sunnis and Shi'ites.
Osama bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family but had his nationality revoked. The al Qaeda head is believed to be hiding in mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Najwa left Afghanistan early in 2001, with several of her other children, as did Omar bin Laden, the member of the family who has rebelled most vigorously against his father, who is believed to have about 20 children from various wives.
Omar bin Laden said he had no word on Saad, one of his elder brothers who has been reported to have been a member of al Qaeda killed by a U.S. missile drone strike in pakistan in 2009.
Omar bin Laden said he did not know for certain about the reports of his death but he was sure Saad was not al Qaeda.
Omar bin Laden declined to say where he was living, explaining this was for security reasons. Media reports have said he has lived in both Qatar and his birthplace Saudi Arabia.
In Growing up bin Laden, a book written by U.S. author Jean Sasson with Omar Bin Laden and his mother and published by Oneworld Publications, Omar bin Laden says he wanted to tell his story to show the damage done by war.
Everything is very hard for us, he said. In my world, it is important for a family to have a strong father to support that family. I have not seen my father since 2001. My siblings and I, as well as my mother, we are all on our own.
(Editing by Ralph Boulton)