Powell Holds Out Chance for Talks with Taliban if Bin Laden Expelled
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he would not rule out eventual talks with the Afghanistan's Taliban should fundamentalist Muslim militia expel Osama bin Laden and act against other alleged terrorists in the country.
"We do not rule it out," Powell said when asked whether the United States was willing to consider speaking with Taliban officials who have thus far refused to expel bin Laden, the US government's prime suspect in last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"We don't see a basis to initiate a conversation but that may well be a possibility if they are prepared to do what is required," Powell told reporters after meeting here with top officials from the European Union.
What is required, Powell said, is for the Taliban to "turn over Osama bin Laden, and not just Osama bin Laden, but all the other lieutenants and [terrorist] infrastructure that exist in Afghanistan."
He then reiterated that the battle against terrorism would not end with the capture or death of bin Laden and the destruction of his al-Qaeda network.
"This is not a campaign against one individual but also the network he is the leader of and when we have dealt with al-Qaeda, the network, Osama bin Laden, the individual, we will then broaden our campaign to go after other terrorist organizations and forms of terrorism around the world," Powell said.
Earlier Thursday, senior religious leaders from across Afghanistan urged the Taliban to ask bin Laden to leave the country voluntarily but officials in Washington have dismissed the move as meaningless.
An edict issued by the clerics, or ulema, expressed "anguish and sorrow" over last week's attacks but also resolved to conduct a jihad or holy war against Washington in the event of US military strikes.
"I saw the clerics' statement but we want action not just statements," Powell said.
"Voluntarily or involuntarily, we believe that Osama bin Laden has to be put under control and turned over to authorities who can bring him to justice, and it should be done rather quickly," he added -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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