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China refutes U.S. stealth copter report

BEIJING, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- China is dismissing a report Pakistan gave Chinese experts access to a crashed U.S. stealth helicopter used in the Osama bin Laden raid.

The highly secret U.S. Blackhawk helicopter crashed during the May 2 raid by a U.S. Navy SEALs team in which the al-Qaida leader was killed in his compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, northeast of Islamabad. Since then, there has been a sharp deterioration in the relations between the United States and Pakistan, which is a close ally of China.

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The official China Daily said a news release it got from China's Ministry of National Defense Tuesday described as "groundless and ridiculous" a report in the Financial Times that Chinese intelligence officials were allowed to take pictures of the crashed helicopter and take wreckage samples for research.

China's official Xinhua news agency also carried the ministry's denial.

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The Financial Times had said it learned Chinese military engineers were allowed to take photographs and remove pieces of the high-tech aircraft U.S. forces left behind after the May raid.

"The U.S. now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI [the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate], gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad," the report said, quoting a source identified only as being in intelligence circles.

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The newspaper quoted people close to the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency as saying the Chinese were given access to the helicopter by Pakistan, which is displeased the American raid was pulled off without any advance notice, even though Pakistan explicitly had been asked not to let anyone have access to the wreckage.

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A senior Pakistani official has denied to the Times access was provided to the Chinese.

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