Britain will hand Usama bin Laden over for trial in the U.S. — but only if he does not face the death penalty, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has indicated.

Mr. Hoon said he believed the U.S. was the correct place to try the prime suspect in the September 11 bombings, if he was captured by British troops.

But he said that extradition to America would require "certain undertakings" from the American authorities.

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain does not extradite suspects to countries which use the death penalty.

It can only do so if assurances are given they will not face execution.

Asked what would happen to bin Laden if he fell into the hands of U.K. troops, Mr. Hoon said: "I believe that it would be very important to respect the international legislation relevant to those circumstances.

"We do extradite people to countries with the death penalty, obviously subject to certain undertakings.

"I see no reason in principle why that shouldn't happen."