Powell: No US Ill Will Toward Afghans, But Time for Bin Laden to Leave
The United States bears no ill will toward the people of Afghanistan but will punish the country's ruling Taliban militia unless it expels its guest, suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, the US secretary of state said Monday.
"The Taliban, of course, is responding in the way that it always has, that Osama bin Laden and his associates are guests in their country," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
"Well, it's time for the guests to leave."
His comments came as the United States awaited a final decision on Bin Laden from the Taliban who have been presented with a US ultimatum for his expulsion by Pakistani emissaries.
The US administration is mulling a military response against Afghanistan should his Taliban hosts not turn over Bin Laden, named by Washington as the prime suspect in a series of terrorist attacks against the United States and US interests including the devastating September 11 strikes in New York and Washington.
Powell urged the Afghan people to press the Taliban to expel Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, calling them "invaders" who put the country at risk.
"We mean no ill toward the people of Afghanistan," Powell said.
"They are a suffering people," Powell said of Afghans whose country has been devastated by decades of civil war, drought and famine.
"They are a poor people and it's for that reason alone they should not allow these invaders to put their society at risk and to connect themselves to the government of Afghanistan," he told reporters.
Powell said there was virtually no doubt that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks in which hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon leaving more than 5,000 people dead and missing.
"It is becoming clearer with each passing hour, with each passing day, that it is the al-Qaeda network that is the prime suspect ... and all roads lead to the leader of that organization, Osama bin Laden, and his location in Afghanistan," he said.
After meeting with the Pakistani emissaries, the Taliban announced on its official Radio Shariat that Islamic scholars from across Afghanistan would decide on Tuesday whether to expel Laden who has lived there as a guest of the militia since 1996.
The Taliban have refused to turn him over despite repeated requests to do so from the United States and the United Nations which has refused to recognize the militia and imposed sanctions on the regime -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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