Tags: Taliban | Deny | Inviting | Jackson

Taliban Deny Inviting Jackson

Friday, 28 September 2001 12:00 AM

"He offered to help resolve our dispute with the United States, and we accepted his offer," said the Taliban ambassador to Islamabad Abdus Salam Zaef.

Zaef's assertion, published in Pakistani newspaper Jasarat, which is run by a pro-Taliban religious party called Jamaat-i-Islami, was also confirmed by another Taliban official.

Tayyab Agha, a director at Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar's headquarters in Kandahar, southwestern Afghanistan, when asked to comment on Jackson's peace mission, said: "Mr. Jackson offered to mediate, and we gratefully accepted his offer."

"Our leader (Omar) has ordered Taliban officials to extend full cooperation if Jesse Jackson visits Afghansitan. He is a good man. We welcome him," said Zaef.

Jackson, however, said he was invited by the Taliban deputy ambassador in Islamabad, Mohammed Sohail Shaheen, who called his office in Chicago and asked him to visit Afghanistan.

Some Pakistani-Americans afraid of "the impact of a war on Pakistan and Afghanistan ... helped facilitate the call. I was frankly surprised when he called here," Jackson told United Press International on Thursday.

He said he believes Taliban leaders want an alternative to a possible U.S. military strike should they not heed U.S. demands to turn over bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Jackson read a statement that he said came from the Taliban government that said it wanted to "see the situation resolved in a way that observes the dignity and integrity of all sides."

He said the statement went on to say that the Taliban would welcome any delegation that came to them "in the interest of resolving this matter, avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe that would befall the people of Afghanistan as a result of military strikes."

He said he called U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice as soon as he heard from Shaheen.

Powell said Thursday that he told Jackson that the U.S. position was clear and the decision to accept or decline the invitation was up to the civil rights leader.

"He is free to travel. I don't know what purpose would be served right now, since the position of the United States and the international community is quite clear. And so, it's a matter for he and whoever he was speaking to over there to decide," Powell said.

Independent observers in the Pakistani capital Islamabad said the Taliban might have invited Jackson but were now denying doing so because of the U.S. administration's apparent lack of interest in a role for Jackson.

In 1999, Jackson met with then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to discuss the release of three captured U.S. soldiers. They were freed days later.

He also secured the release of captured Navy Lt. Robert Goodman from Syria in 1984 as well as the release of 48 Cuban and Cuban-American prisoners in 1987. He was the first American to bring hostages out of Kuwait and Iraq in 1990.

The father of a U.S. aid worker being held by the Taliban also is asking for Jackson's help. And Jackson said he is considering another request from parents of two Christian aid workers to help secure their daughters' release, along with six other detained Western aid workers held by the Taliban.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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He offered to help resolve our dispute with the United States, and we accepted his offer, said the Taliban ambassador to Islamabad Abdus Salam Zaef. Zaef's assertion, published in Pakistani newspaper Jasarat, which is run by a pro-Taliban religious party called...
Taliban,Deny,Inviting,Jackson
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2001-00-28
Friday, 28 September 2001 12:00 AM
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