US rejects Taliban’s requests for bin Laden evidence
The Guardian, 14.9.2001
President George Bush rejected as “non-negotiable” an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan.
Returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, the president said the bombing would not stop, unless the ruling Taliban “turn [bin Laden] over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over.” He added, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”. In Jalalabad, deputy prime minister Haji Abdul Kabir – the third most powerful figure in the ruling Taliban regime – told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, but added: “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”.
The offer came a day after the Taliban’s supreme leader rebuffed Bush’s “second chance” for the Islamic militia to surrender Bin Laden to the US.
Mullah Mohammed Omar said there was no move to “hand anyone over”.
Taliban ‘ready to discuss’ Bin Laden handover if bombing halts
The Taliban would be ready to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted the bombing of Afghanistan, a senior Taliban official said today.
Afghanistan’s deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir, told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
“If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved” and the bombing campaign stopped, “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”, Mr Kabir added.
But it would have to be a state that would never “come under pressure from the United States”, he said.
Mr Kabir urged America to halt its air campaign, now in its eighth day, and open negotiations. “If America were to step back from the current policy, then we could negotiate,” he said. “Then we could discuss which third country.”
Large explosions caused by American bombs and missiles have been reported to the south and east of the Afghan capital, Kabul, this evening.
The sky above the city has been filled with tracer fire from Taliban anti-aircraft guns once again.
Before the start of the air campaign, the Taliban had demanded evidence of Bin Laden’s involvement in the attack and had offered to try him before an Islamic court inside Afghanistan – proposals that the US promptly rejected.
Al-Qaida warning an ‘admission of guilt’
Threats of new terrorist strikes against Britain and the US from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida group amount to an admission of guilt for the September 11 attacks, the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said today.
Mr Prescott, speaking while on a diplomatic mission in Moscow, argued that the latest statement from al-Qaida strongly suggested Bin Laden’s culpability for last month’s attacks on New York and Washington.
“What I have heard about the message given … is basically confirming, I think, the guilt of Bin Laden, who has made it clear that he wants to continue these actions,” he told BBC1’s Breakfast with Frost programme this morning.
The new threats from al-Qaida came from spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, in a video-taped statement broadcast on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera Arabic TV news network.
He said Muslims in the US and Britain “should avoid travelling by air or living in high buildings or towers”.
Americans and Britons were also warned to leave the Arabian Peninsula “because the land will burn with fire under their feet”.
Washington dismissed the comments as “propaganda”, while a Downing Street spokeswoman echoed Mr Prescott’s comment that the threats amounted to an admission of guilt.
Anti-US protests engulf Pakistani town
Thousands of anti-US protesters today converged on a southern Pakistani town, fighting pitched battles with police and paramilitary troops.
One person was killed and 24 were injured in the battles around Jacobabad, police said.
The desert city is the home of one of two air bases made available to US forces to support the air campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.
As rage grew over US-led air strikes on Afghanistan, one militant leader exhorted followers to set Shabaz airbase in Jacobabad on fire “at any cost”, and another called on Pakistan’s generals to overthrow the country’s military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
Cathedral cleared in ‘powder’ scare
Firefighters wearing protective suits were this afternoon attempting to clear up white powder dropped in Canterbury Cathedral by a man reported to be of Arab appearance.
The cathedral was evacuated at around 2.30pm today after the man was seen dropping the powder in one of its chapels.
The fire brigade was called in to clear up the powder and take samples for analysis, amid heightened concerns about biological warfare attacks in Britain.
It is understood the powder is not thought to be a biological agent, such as anthrax, but the cathedral remains closed tonight as tests are carried out.
UN commissioner warns of Afghan starvation threat
United Nations human rights commissioner Mary Robinson has called for a pause in the US-led bombing of Afghanistan to allow food aid into the country and prevent a “Rwanda-style” humanitarian disaster.
The former Irish president said that otherwise America and its allies could preside over the deaths from starvation of millions of people in Afghanistan.
Mrs Robinson, speaking to BBC1’s Breakfast with Frost programme from Geneva, said helping Afghanistan’s civilian population through the winter had to be a top priority.
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