Taliban Accuses US of Sabotaging Deal to Avert War
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban Saturday accused the United States of sabotaging a deal to avert war by rejecting a resolution of Islamic clerics recommending that Osama bin Laden leave the country.
The resolution, adopted on Thursday, suggested that the Taliban leadership persuade bin Laden, who is suspected of involvement in the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, to leave Afghanistan voluntarily.
Within hours, US President George W. Bush announced that the ruling did not go far enough to halt US preparations for war and demanded bin Laden be immediately handed over.
Abdul Hai Mutmaen, a spokesman for the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, said Bush's response had left the Taliban with no option but to prepare for a jihad (holy war).
"If Osama leaves of his own accord, nobody will stop him. But handing him over to the United States is impossible because the ulema [scholars] said that would be unIslamic," the spokesman told AFP.
"The suggestion about persuading Osama to leave Afghanistan has been almost kicked out by the United States," he said.
"The US President has called the resolution insufficient and now we are more considering the jihad [holy war] option."
The spokesman said he had no idea whether anyone in the Taliban had suggested to bin Laden that he leave the country and claimed he did not know where the Saudi-born militant was.
Bin Laden has been based in or around the Taliban's stronghold in the southern city of Kandahar since 1996.
There has been speculation that he may already have slipped out of the country earlier this week.
But Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel implied Saturday that he had not left. "I have not heard any report that he has left Afghanistan," he told AFP.
The foreign minister issued a fresh appeal to the United States not to attack and reiterated the Taliban's long-held view that Washington does not have concrete evidence linking bin Laden to terrorist atrocities.
"Blaming the whole nation for the wrongdoing of a few people who have not even been proved guilty is not good.
"If the US attacks Afghanistan we will have no option but to pursue jihad” -- KABUL (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)