Tags: Clerics | Urge | bin | Laden | Leave | Afghanistan

Clerics Urge bin Laden to Leave Afghanistan

Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM

"Bin Laden should find another place to live," said the edict issued after two days of deliberations, Afghanistan's official Bakhtar news agency reported.

The edict cited the fear of a U.S. attack as the reason for going against an earlier pledge by Taliban leaders to allow bin Laden to stay in Afghanistan as long as he wanted.

"To avoid the current tumult and also future similar suspicions, the council recommends to the Afghan government to persuade Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan whenever possible," said the edict issued by the country's highest religious body.

"They asked the Taliban to persuade bin Laden to leave Afghanistan at the proper time and of his own choice," said Mullah Mohammad Muslim Haqqani, the deputy minister of higher education.

The council also pledged to declare a jihad, or holy war, if the United States attacked Afghanistan to flush out bin Laden, a prime suspect in last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

"If Washington goes ahead and attacks Afghanistan despite all this, we will have no option but to declare a jihad against the United States," the edict said.

Some 6,000 people were dead or missing in the attacks in which two hijacked airliners destroyed the World Trade Center twin towers and another extensively damaged the Pentagon. Another commandeered airliner crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently as passengers charged the hijackers.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said most of the speeches at the meeting were against handing over bin Laden.

The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had called a meeting of 600-1,000 clerics from across Afghanistan to decide on a U.S. ultimatum to turn over bin Laden by Thursday or face almost certain military action.

In Washington, President Bush will address a joint session of Congress Thursday night. "I look forward to the opportunity to explain to the American people who would do this to our country and why," said Bush.

Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said the president will not announce military action Thursday and, instead, will stress the drawn-out nature of the war that Americans face and the sacrifices they will be called on to make.

"The American people have a lot of questions about what kind of people would do this to the United States; why this kind of hate would exist against the United States. So we'll get a clearer picture of the enemy that we're facing," Rice said.

As Rice spoke, U.S. military forces were being deployed to the strengthen the U.S. presence in the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed a deployment order for military forces, dispatching combat ships and roughly 100 land-based aircraft to those destinations, according to defense officials.

"We are moving forces worldwide to respond to the president's campaign against terrorism," a senior defense official told UPI.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer ruled out negotiating with the ruling Taliban militia over the fate of bin Laden.

"The president's message to the Taliban is very simple: It's time for action, not negotiations," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, repeating calls on the Taliban to hand over Saudi fugitive bin Laden.

Fleischer said the White House wanted the Taliban to "take the actions necessary to no longer harbor terrorists - whatever form that takes."

Fleischer's comments marked the second rebuff the administration has delivered in recent days to Afghanistan, where Taliban leaders have signaled some willingness to negotiate to avoid U.S. military strikes in retaliation for backing bin Laden. (Anwar Iqbal in Washington contributed to this report)

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Bin Laden should find another place to live, said the edict issued after two days of deliberations, Afghanistan's official Bakhtar news agency reported. The edict cited the fear of a U.S. attack as the reason for going against an earlier pledge by Taliban leaders to allow...
Clerics,Urge,bin,Laden,Leave,Afghanistan
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2001-00-20
Thursday, 20 September 2001 12:00 AM
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