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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Taleban say attacks avenged US 'cruelty'
Pakistani protester
An anti-America protest in Pakistan
Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has said the 11 September attacks on the United States were to avenge the "cruelty" of American foreign policy.

In a message to the American people on Tuesday, Mullah Omar also reiterated that Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi-born dissident whom the US blames for the bombings, was incapable of such a sophisticated attack.

The American people must know that the sad events that took place recently were the result of their government's wrong policies

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar
But UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said military conflict was inevitable if the Taleban did not hand over Bin Laden.

He warned the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan they should be in no doubt about the resolve and strength of the growing international coalition against terrorism.

Click here for a map of possible targets

Coalition building

The US strengthened its coalition on Tuesday when Saudi Arabia, one of only two Arab countries to have recognised Taleban rule, announced it was severing diplomatic ties with the regime.

George Bush and Junichiro Koizumi
Bush discussed co-operation with Japanese PM Koizumi
The Saudi Government has given Afghan diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

US President George W Bush has been briefing leaders of Congress on the US military deployments within striking distance of Afghanistan, telling them not to expect a conventional war.

He also discussed co-operation with the visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

In other developments:

  • Interpol issues a warrant for the arrest of Egyptian militant Ayman al-Zawahri, believed to be Bin Laden's top deputy

  • Pakistan warns against imposing a government on Afghanistan if the Taleban regime were to fall

  • The United Nations is to resume food aid shipments to northern and western Afghanistan for the first time since the attacks on New York and Washington

  • UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agrees to show Iran evidence linking Bin Laden with the attacks on the US

  • The Group of Seven industrialised nations vows to pursue a comprehensive strategy to disrupt terrorist funding

    'Wrong and cruel policies'

    "The American people must know that the sad events that took place recently were the result of their government's wrong policies," read the message from Mullah Omar, delivered through Pakistan-based private news agency, the Afghan Islamic Press.

    "Your government is perpetrating all sorts of atrocities in Muslim countries. Instead of supporting your government's policies you should urge your government to reconsider their wrong and cruel policies," he said.

    Exhausted Pakistani aid worker
    Japan is giving $40bn of aid to Pakistan
    "Why can't you judge whether Osama bin Laden is involved in this? Can he do this in America?" Mullah Omar asked.

    The Taleban maintain that they do not know the whereabouts of Bin Laden, and he has disclaimed any responsibility for the attacks, which killed more than 6,800 people.

    It is Mullah Omar's second message to the American people in two days. On Monday, he warned the US Government to withdraw its forces from the Middle East and stop its support for Israel if it wanted to eliminate the threat of terrorism.

    Taleban alienation

    The Saudi decision to sever relations with the Taleban comes three days after the United Arab Emirates, the other Arab state which recognised the Taleban, severed ties with Kabul.

    Pakistan is now the only country to recognise the Taleban. Pakistani President Pervez Mursharraf has denied he is under international pressure to also sever ties, adding that he could see no requirement to break the relationship.

    Mullah Mohammad Omar
    A rare image of Mullah Omar
    The Saudi Government is however still apparently resisting US pressure to allow American fighter planes to use its bases for an attack on Afghanistan.

    Correspondents say this is one of the most serious sticking points in the building of the US coalition that includes the Gulf States.

    Russian support

    But the US Secretary of State Colin Powell has welcomed Russia's offer of the use of former Soviet airbases in central Asian states neighbouring Afghanistan.

    Russian President Putin has further increased the pressure on the Taleban by saying that Russia would offer more arms and other supplies to the Northern Alliance, the group fighting the Taleban in northern Afghanistan.

    Mr Putin also said that Russia will offer further pooling of intelligence.

    Click here to return

    The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Northern Afghanistan
    "The Taleban has rather disturbing techniques in combat"
    The BBC's Andrew Marr
    "This is only the start of a strange new kind of war"
    The BBC's James Robbins
    on the gathering strength of the US-led coalition
    See also:

    24 Sep 01 | South Asia
    US military threats dismissed
    25 Sep 01 | Middle East
    Saudi statement in full
    25 Sep 01 | Europe
    A significant step for Russia
    18 Sep 01 | South Asia
    Who is Osama Bin Laden?
    24 Sep 01 | Business
    Will Bush's asset freeze work?
    16 Sep 01 | Americas
    Analysis: Building a coalition
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