My Greatest Mistake: Mark Urban diplomatic editor, BBC 2'S Newsnight

It was 26 February 1998, in a room in the Sheraton Kuwait, and the conversation turned to Osama bin Laden. I was there on a Newsnight assignment with Tom Giles, a producer, and cameraman Peter Jouvenal.

We had been sent to Kuwait in anticipation of military action against Iraq, but Saddam had agreed to a diplomatic deal, saving himself for the time being. So the discussion at the Sheraton revolved around what we might do in the absence of military strikes on Baghdad. Jouvenal was a veteran of Afghanistan - he'd been there dozens of times in his capacity as a freelance war cameraman. He had got to know some people connected to Bin Laden, and indeed filmed an interview with the al-Qa'ida leader for the US network ABC.

The plan, as Peter outlined it, was a simple one. We would head down to the Emirates and get the weekly flight to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. He had made discreet inquiries and established that we might then be in with a chance of getting a Bin Laden interview.

That was the theory, anyway, for Peter knew Afghanistan and those around Bin Laden well enough to predict that we would have to be ready to spend a couple of weeks waiting around in Jalalabad. It was hard to see London accepting the expense of this since quality (in the form of Jouvenal's daily rate) rarely comes cheap, but the idea was never referred to them, since I vetoed it.

Giles and Jouvenal were game - indeed it would have been hard to find two keener journalistic veterans. I kiboshed the plan. There was no guarantee we'd get the interview. Even if we waited for weeks, it would be very hard to convince the office and, if I'm being honest, I just didn't fancy the idea of such a long separation from my wife and baby daughter.

So why do I regret it so much in retrospect? Because for a few months a window opened when Bin Laden gave interviews. With Peter, we'd have had a good chance of getting it, and, as things turned out, even a few months later, the prospect of getting that scoop pretty much vanished for good as far as Westerners were concerned.

Mark Urban is the author of 'Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters', Faber and Faber, £20

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