A day before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, former President Bill Clinton told an audience in Australia that he had passed on an opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden because the attack would have caused too many civilian deaths.

The comments are heard on an audiotape released this week by Australian politician Michael Kroger, who was present for Clinton's talk in Melbourne to around 30 business leaders.

Bin Laden "is a very smart guy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about him - and I nearly got him once. I nearly got him," the former president is heard to say.

"And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn't do it," Clinton told the Australians.

Kroger, a one-time leader of Australia's Liberal Party, provided the tape to SkyNews.

"The event was taped with his knowledge," Kroger said during an appearance on the SkyNews program "Paul Murray Live."

"The tape has never been played. Bill Clinton was answering a question from a member of the audience about terrorism, international terrorism and he made some extraordinary remarks which had hitherto remained in my vault," Kroger said.

The 9/11 Investigative Commission said in its report that a planned 1998 missile strike on Bin Laden in Afghanistan was called off due to fear of a large number of civilian deaths. EFE