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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 09:28 GMT
Profile: Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil
Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil
Mutawakil :Thought to be outside Mullah Omar's inner circle
Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil has always been described as the more respectable face of the Taleban.

Articulate and relatively moderate - even known to show a sense of humour - he acted as international spokesman for the Taleban, putting a gloss on the group's human rights abuses.

He did, however, privately voice some concern about the increasing influence of Osama Bin Laden and other Arab militants.

Last October diplomatic sources in Pakistan said Mr Mutawakil had been in the country, trying to cut a deal whereby Bin Laden would be handed over for trial.

Out of the loop

Some American officials believed he wanted to improve relations with the United States.

As such, he is thought to have been shut out from the Taleban inner circle and may not be able to give the American military as much intelligence as they might hope for.

American journalist Mark Abel told the BBC that he is several rungs of power removed from the Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

In fact, according to an unnamed source close to the foreign minister interviewed by the New York Times, Mr Mutawakil actually broke with Mullah Omar in September over the latter's refusal to force Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan in line with a recommendation by an Afghan religious council.

'In negotiations'

He viewed Bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan as an obstacle to earning the Taleban the acceptance of the international community, the source says.

US officials say they are not entirely surprised about Mr Mutawakil's surrender, saying he had been negotiating its terms for some time.

Mr Mutawakil is from the Taleban's spiritual centre of Kandahar, in Afghanistan's south, and became the Taleban's foreign minister in late 1999.

Prior to that he was spokesman and secretary to Mullah Omar, on whose whereabouts the US military will hope Mr Mutawakil can shed some light.

See also:

09 Feb 02 | South Asia
Taleban foreign minister surrenders
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