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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 22:13 GMT
Bin Laden reward on matchbox

Osama bin Laden matchbox Misprint: The reward offered is missing a zero

By Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar

The American consulate in Peshawar, the capital of the north-west frontier province of Pakistan, has distributed hundreds of matchboxes offering a reward for the capture of the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.

The matchboxes bear a picture of Osama bin Laden and promise confidentiality to anyone who comes forward with information.

The advertisements on the matchboxes have appeared at the same time as hundreds of 100 rupee notes, which also promised a reward for information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, who is wanted by Washington on terrorist charges.

Reward misprint

The American effort to get local help in securing Osama bin Laden's arrest got off to a bad start.

Osama bin Laden Osama bin Laden: 'Guest' of the Taleban
The message on the boxes, written in Urdu, contained a misprint.

The consulate wanted the reward to be $5m, but the amount actually offered on the box was only $500,000.

The message on the boxes says that anyone who offers information will be promised complete confidentiality and the offer of asylum in the United States.

Osama bin Laden is wanted by the American authorities for allegedly planning the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.

The release of the boxes has coincided with the appearance of a number of Pakistani currency notes - written in the Pashto and Dari languages - that also offer a reward for Osama bin Laden's arrest.

However, the American consulate in Peshawar says that it is not responsible for making or distributing these notes.

Possible Clinton visit

Nevertheless, the matchbox initiative comes at a sensitive time.

Bill Clinton Washington is pressuring Pakistan to influence the Taleban
The Pakistani military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, is due to visit Afghanistan soon and he is likely to be under some pressure from Washington to use his influence over the ruling Taleban to take steps against Osama bin Laden.

Such an effort by the Pakistani Government could prove crucial as President Clinton decides whether or not to visit the country on his tour of South Asia next month.

However, it is not thought likely that the Taleban will shift from its previously stated position in relation to Osama bin Laden.

It says that he should only be tried by a court made up of judges from three Islamic countries.

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See also:
06 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Osama bin Laden: America's most wanted
24 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's mediation mission
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
03 Aug 98 |  Analysis
Afghanistan: 20 years of bloodshed

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