Hindustan Times:Taliban willing to hand over Osama to Pakistan

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Taliban willing to hand over Osama to Pak

Mubashir Zaidi and Agencies

(Islamabad/Kabul, September 17)

Even as the Afghan official radio reported Monday that a final decision on Osama bin Laden has been left to the Ulema, the Taliban have told an official Pakistani delegation that they are willing to hand over the Saudi-born terrorist to Islamabad. But Pakistan is still trying to remove the condition attached to his extradition -- trial in an Islamic country.

A Pakistani delegation led by the ISI's director, General Mehmood Ahmed, and including the Foreign Office's Afghan desk director, Aziz Khan, held a three-hour meeting with the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Kandahar.

Senior Pakistani government sources say the Taliban had expressed a willingness to hand over Bin Laden. However, they insisted Bin Laden would have to be tried in an Islamic country. Three countries were named: Pakistan, the UAE or Saudi Arabia. These are the only countries to recognize the Taliban regime.

The Pakistanis insist that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden directly to the US. In return, Islamabad will assure the Saudi-born terrorist's trial will be "held in public." In Washington on Monday, President Bush spelt out the US position by saying he wanted Bin Laden brought to the US "dead or alive."

The delegation earlier met the Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. The talks will now go to a second day. The Pakistani delegation will participate in a meeting of the Taliban's Supreme Council, scheduled to be held in Kabul. The Council will make the final decision on Bin Laden's fate.

The Pakistani team warned the Taliban that if they failed to hand over Bin Laden they would face US military strikes. Afterwards, Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutmain said he saw a 60 per cent chance the situation would return to normal. Trying Bin Laden in an Islamic court was proposed by the Taliban in 1994. It has also been floated repeatedly by Pervez Musharraf. Today, few nations would like to host bin Laden for fear of US military action.

These developments were one reason Musharraf cancelled a TV address to the nation scheduled for Monday. His coming trip to China had been cancelled at Beijing's request. China announced it was sealing its borders with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Pakistan on Monday closed its Afghan border. The Taliban moved an estimated 20,000 troops near the border with Pakistan and deployed Scud missiles.

Final decision rests with Ulema

Meanwhile, Taliban said chief Mullah Mohammad Omar said a meeting of Islamic leaders from around the country scheduled here Tuesday would make a "decision" on the crisis over Osama bin Laden, the official radio reported. State-run Radio Shariat said Omar told visiting Pakistani officials on Monday that a meeting of ulema (Islamic scholars) from every province had been convened here to issue a fatwa, or learned opinion.

"Tomorrow a gathering of ulema from each province will be held in Kabul and they will make a decision about the recent events," the Taliban mouthpiece radio station said in a news bulletin.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), September 17, 2001


I sure do hope the Hindustan newspaper is right.

-- LarryII (LarryII@keystone.net), September 17, 2001.

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