JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon compared Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Israel radio quoted Sharon as saying, ``Everyone has his own bin Laden. Arafat is our bin Laden.'' Sharon made the remark in a conversation with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the radio said.

Sharon told Powell that Arafat has followed the ``ideology'' of bin Laden _ a leading suspect in organizing the attacks this week on the United States. Arafat is responsible for terror strikes against Israel during the past year of fighting, Sharon said, according to his spokesman Raanan Gissin.

``Unfortunately Arafat has adhered to that philosophy for the past year since he launched these attacks,'' Gissin said.

Palestinians, meanwhile, said Sharon's comment was intended to give Israel an excuse to escalate military action against the Palestinians.

Those who make such a connection only want to have an excuse ``to exert their aggression and continue the killing of the Palestinian people,'' said Sakher Habash, a leader in Arafat's Fatah movement.