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Saturday, July 10, 1999 Published at 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK


World: South Asia

Taleban 'will not extradite' bin Laden

The Taleban admit they are sheltering Osama bin Laden

The Taleban movement in Afghanistan says it will not extradite Saudi exile Osama bin Laden to the United States to face charges of masterminding US embassy bombings in Africa last year.

The Taleban's chief spokesman, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, said Taleban was prepared to negotiate with the US and others about Mr bin Laden, and the accusations levelled at him, provided "these states prove such accusations". So far, he said, the US failed to present any proof showing his involvement in any terrorist act.

He added that Taleban had no extradition agreements with any country.

The spokesman said the Taleban will try bin Laden in accordance with Islamic law.

He said it would be impossible to expect the Taleban to hand over these individuals or accept demands that they leave Afghan territory.

Offer

The comments appeared to be a response to a US offer to negotiate with the Taleban to bring bin Laden to trial connection with the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The offer followed President Clinton's imposition of trade and financial sanctions on the Taleban in an effort to persuade them to hand over Mr bin Laden.


Richard Lister reports from Washington: "US frustrated so far"
On Thursday, the Taleban acknowledged that the militant Saudi millionaire was in the country, and that it is looking after his security.

A spokesman for the movement said it was open to the possibility of negotiations on his future.

State Department Deputy Spokesman James Foley responded by saying: "We would welcome the opportunity to negotiate bin Laden's return to face justice."


[ image:  ]
"We continue to urge the Taleban to resolve this issue. Bringing bin Laden to justice remains our bottom line," the spokesman told Reuters news agency.

The US government says it has faced contradictory messages from the Taleban over the last weeks.

Protected

"The Taleban has been trying to send signals," James Foley said." We've seen press reports that they want to negotiate with us ... other reports say that they have no intention to turn him over and that he is protected in Afghanistan."

In an exclusive interview with the BBC Pashto Service, the Taleban's chief spokesman, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, had said a Taleban intelligence unit was overseeing Mr bin Laden's movements and activities.


BBC Kabul Correspondent William Reeve: His location is secret
He said Mr bin Laden was not able to carry out any terrorist attacks from Afghan soil.

Analysts read this statement as a hint that the Saudi exile could be under house arrest in Afghanistan.


[ image: The fort near Kandahar where Mr bin Laden was thought to be living]
The fort near Kandahar where Mr bin Laden was thought to be living
Mr Mutawakil added the information on Mr bin Laden was kept secret to maintain the safety of ordinary Afghans.

Last August, the US launched cruise missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan suspected of being connected to the Saudi dissident.

He was recently added to the FBI's "10 most wanted" list, with a $5m reward.





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