Jordanian musical mocks bin Laden

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As the United States continues its hunt for Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man is inspiring a rare glimmer of humour in Jordan, where a musical satire playing in the capital, Amman, mocks the Saudi-born militant.

Mr bin Laden, as played by the Jordanian-Palestinian actor and playwright, Hisham Yanes, tells the audience he is ready to travel to Washington to hand himself over to George Bush on one condition: "You come with me and I fly the plane!" He says the Americans will not eat hamburgers in peace until the Palestinians can eat their national dish, musakhan chicken.

"I make fun of him so that no one takes him seriously," Yanes said. "Some people see him as a kind of saviour but he isn't. He wants to divide the world into camps and he has a vision of Islam that I don't want my daughter to grow up with."

Mr bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network is suspected of plotting to assassinate Jordan's King Abdullah on holiday and of trying to blow up tourist facilities in the country. Eleven members of the group are on trial in the kingdom. Yanes acknowledges that Mr bin Laden's popularity derives from grievances including Palestine, poverty and the legacy of colonialism. "People are waiting for a messiah, a liberator, a Jesus, a Saladin," he says. "Bin Laden is playing with their dreams."

Mr bin Laden still has his sympathisers, many of them in the poor desert town of Maan in southern Jordan, where the death last week in custody of Suleiman Fanatseh saw the worst riots since King Abdullah came to power in 1999. The 17-year-old boy had a picture of Mr bin Laden in his pocket when he was arrested.