Pentagon and Pakistani officials denied yesterday a report on Iranian state radio that bin Laden had been captured in the region long ago. The report was carried by Iran radio's external Pushtun service, which is designed for listeners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the language is widely spoken.
Iran state radio's main news channel - the Farsi-language service for Iranian listeners - did not carry the bin Laden report. Iran state television also did not carry the report.
The radio quoted its reporter as saying that bin Laden had been in custody for a period of time, but that a U.S. announcement of the capture was being withheld by Bush until closer to the November election.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking to reporters Thursday, sounded testy when asked about the chances of finding bin Laden, saying it "will happen when it happens, and I don't believe it's closer or farther at any given moment."
But at the White House and at the Pentagon, there is talk of better intelligence - some of it supplied by captured al-Qaida lieutenants - and a new sense of optimism.
Much of it centers on Task Force 121, which was created last fall to hunt what the military calls "high-value targets" in Iraq and Afghanistan. A senior military official in Washington with access to classified troop movements said "small numbers" of the commandos had recently moved to Afghanistan to bolster the Special Operations efforts there, a development first reported this week by The Washington Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.