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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 13:44 GMT
Taleban 'offered Bin Laden to Saudis'
Victims are pulled from the wreckage of the American embassy in Nairobi
More than 230 people were killed in the embassy bombings

By BBC Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner in Riyadh

The leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban agreed to extradite Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia three years ago, the former head of Saudi intelligence says.

In a rare interview with the Saudi newspaper Arab News and the Saudi television station MBC, Prince Turki al-Faisal revealed how the deal apparently slipped away at the last minute, after the US fired cruise missiles at Afghanistan following the East Africa embassy bombings.

Prince Turki, who was head of foreign intelligence until just before the 11 September attacks on the US, said he had made two secret visits to Afghanistan to negotiate the extradition of Osama bin Laden with the Taleban leader Mullah Omar.

The Taleban Government is the one that put itself in this predicament

Prince Turki al-Faisal
At that time the Saudi-born dissident had already upset the Saudi government with his calls for US forces to be expelled from Arabian soil.

Prince Turki was quoted as saying that Mullah Omar had agreed to hand over Bin Laden and had suggested setting up a joint Saudi-Afghan committee to arrange the handover.

US trial?

But a leading Saudi dissident in London, Dr Saad al-Faqih says that Mullah Omar would never have agreed to hand over his guest Osama Bin Laden, on the assumption that he would end up in US custody.

Either way, the Saudi-Afghan discussions broke down after the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa in 1998.

Victims' relatives at a memorial service in Nairobi
Prince Turki says the Taleban offered up Bin Laden before the African bombings
The US blamed Osama bin Laden and fired cruise missile at Afghanistan and Sudan, where the dissident spent several years in the 1990s.

When Prince Turki later returned to Afghanistan, he said the Taleban leader had changed his mind.

The Saudi prince said he left empty-handed warning his Afghan hosts that they would one day regret their decision.

In the same interview published on Sunday, Prince Turki also urged Saudis to believe the alleged evidence against Osama bin Laden.

The prince, who is obviously aware that many Saudis still think Bin Laden is blameless said those who still call for evidence are closing their eyes to the facts.

In words aimed at the large number of Bin Laden sympathisers in Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki said Osama bin Laden could not escape his guilt. He said God will punish him.

See also:

03 Nov 01 | Middle East
Saudis pay to surf censored sites
25 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia slams Western media
24 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi mufti bans killing non-Muslims
30 Oct 01 | Middle East
Saudi Arabia warns over 'harassment'
29 May 01 | Africa
Flashback: Terror in Nairobi
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