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Wednesday, August 19, 1998 Published at 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK

World: South Asia

Taleban refuse to give up Saudi militant

The Taleban are seeking international recognition

The ruling Taleban Islamic movement founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has ruled out the possibility of handing over Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden to the US government in return for recognition of their government in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the BBC Pashto Service from the Taleban Islamic Movement headquarters in Kandihar in south-western Afghanistan, Mullah Omar said no amount of temptation or coercion can force the Taleban to hand over Osama bin Laden to the American or Pakistan governments.

He also maintained that Osama bin Laden was not involved in the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and he did not have the power or the resources to explode bombs in far-away places in Africa.

Mullah Omar argued that the American CIA was trying to cover up its own short-comings and failures by blaming Osama bin Laden for every act of terrorism in the world.

[ image: Osama bin Laden: prime suspect]
Osama bin Laden: prime suspect
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said during a visit to Nairobi that Taleban leaders should hand over bin Laden if they hoped to win recognition for their government by the international community.

She said bin Laden's activities were "inimical to those of civilised people in the world and the United States".

'Objectionable activity'

The Washington Post has reported Pakistani intelligence sources as saying that a suspect extradited to Kenya, Mohammed Sadiq Howaida, confessed he was involved in the bombings and said bin Laden sponsored and financed the operation.

Ahmed Rashid of the Daily Telegraph newspaper on Pakistan and the Taleban
Howaida is reported to have said that bin Laden had a large arsenal of surface-to-air missiles, mortars, rockets and tanks stored in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio quoted the Russian news agency RIA as saying that bin Laden had admitted to a journalist in Afghanistan that he was behind the attacks.

But the Taleban deny that bin Laden has used Afghan territory as a base for such attacks and say he is "under clear instructions not to engage in any objectionable activity".

The Taleban leader said: "In the given circumstances, the Taleban can assure the world, one hundred percent, that Osama bin Laden is not involved in any subversive activity."

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