US Will Not Back Jesse Jackson Peace Mission to Afghanistan
The United States has no interest in backing a proposed mission to Afghanistan by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson who said Thursday he had been invited to the country by the Taliban to mediate peace with the regime accused of harboring suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
"We're not interested in a dialogue," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said. "We're interested in action and no negotiation. The demands are not subject to dialogue."
Armitage, speaking on NBC television, said the Taliban appeared to be stalling on turning over bin Laden who the United States has said is the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"It seems to me they're trying to delay making a decision on their own," he said, adding that Jackson had spoken with Secretary of State Colin Powell about the Taliban suggestion.
Powell, Armitage said, told Jackson that the demands laid on the Taliban by President George W. Bush were "not negotiable" and that if the militia wanted to avoid possible retaliatory strikes it must hand over bin Laden and eliminate his al-Qaeda network.
Armitage said that while Washington would not stop Jackson from making the trip to Afghanistan, he would not have any support from the US government.
"I personally wouldn't, but I don't think it's my decision," Armitage said when asked whether US officials would encourage Jackson to go. "I think he'll make his own decision."
Jackson said earlier that Mohammed Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban at their embassy in Pakistan, had asked him to lead a peace delegation to Afghanistan.
"I was surprised that I heard from them," Jackson said.
"I really don't want to go," he said of the mission, emphasizing that if and when he went, the trip would not be "a personal issue" and should be carried out by "a very credible delegation with sufficient intelligence."
The Taliban, however, said the mediation offer had come from Jackson and had been accepted.
In Islamabad, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, denied the mediation request had come from Afghanistan's rulers.
"We have not invited him, but he offered to mediate, and our leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has accepted this offer," Zaeef told the Afghan Islamic Press, a Pakistan-based private news agency.
"He has ordered the authorities to extend cooperation if Jesse Jackson visits Afghanistan. We will have no objection” -- WASHINGTON (AFP)
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