Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Clerics want Laden to leave voluntarily|
|09/20/01 at 04:10:42|
|Clerics want Laden to leave voluntarily |
KABUL/ISLAMABAD: The Islamic clerics from across Afghanistan adopted the resolution on Thursday asking Osama Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan of his own accord, a Taliban official told AFP. The clerics also passed a resolution that called for a jehad, or holy war, if the United States attacks Afghanistan, said Mullah Mohammad Muslim Haqqani, the deputy minister of higher education.
The clerics' statement set no deadline for Bin Laden to accept or reject the call, and it was unclear whether this would be enough to dissuade US President George W Bush from launching massive military strikes against the impoverished nation of Afghanistan.
There was aslo no mention in the clerics' final statement about the camps or Bin Laden's followers, who include thousands of radicals from throughout the Muslim world.
"They asked the Taliban to persuade Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan at the proper time and of his own choice," Haqqani, a participant in the talks, told AFP minutes after the meeting finished.
"They also said that if the US attacks Afghanistan it will be the obligation of every Muslim to carry out jehad." The resolutions were passed at the end of a two-day meeting of hundreds of clerics from all 32 provinces of Afghanistan.
The final statement appeared to be a compromise between the hard-liners among the clerics, who would be ready to go to war to protect Bin Laden, and those who wanted to rid the country of a devastating threat.
Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, who called the meeting of the clerics, are likely to follow its direction, but it was uncertain whether Bin Laden, the key suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, would be prepared to leave Afghanistan, where he has had sanctuary since 1996.
On Wednesday, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement, said it was willing to meet with US officials but also accused Washington of unfairly vilifying bin Laden.
The council of clerics, which began meeting Wednesday in the Presidential Palace, moved to the hotel, another heavily damaged building in the war-shattered capital, to continue its talks Thursday.
In a speech read at the opening of the gathering on Wednesday, Omar denounced Washington's portrayal of bin Laden's alleged role in the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and its refusal to produce evidence. He called the U.S. actions an effort to harm the Taliban, according to the Afghan Islamic Press, a Pakistan-based Afghan news agency with close ties to the Taliban.
"Osama has denied his involvement. It is unfortunate that America does not listen to us and levels all sorts of charges and threatens military action," Omar said in the speech. "We have held talks in ... the past with U.S. governments several times, and we are ready for more talks," he said.
But he said: "If America still wants to attack us ... and to destroy the Islamic government of Afghanistan, we want to get the religious decision from you, our respected religious scholars."
The Bush administration rejected the Taliban offer for talks.
"The president has made it clear it's time for actions not negotiations with the Taliban," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
In Kabul, Omar, who is believed to have final decision-making power, did not attend the clerics' meetings, remaining at the Taliban headquarters in Kandahar.
Bin Laden, a Saudi exile who has been living in Afghanistan under its protection since 1996, has been accused of masterminding several terrorist attacks around the world, including the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in which 231 people were killed.
Earlier this week, Pakistan officials met with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to discuss the U.S. demand to hand him over, but they returned home with no agreement. They said the Taliban were considering the possibility of extraditing bin Laden to a country other than the United States under certain conditions - particularly recognition of their government and an end to U.N. sanctions.
Taliban, an Islamic militia that rules most of the country, is only formally recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The militia has been put under economic sanctions twice by the United Nations to press earlier U.S. demands to hand over bin Laden for trial.
The Taliban, which condemned last week's terror attacks in the United States, have consistently refused to extradite bin Laden, calling him a "guest" and saying that to hand him over to non-Muslims would betray a tenet of Islam.
On Monday, the Taliban said that God would protect them if the world tried to "set fire" to Afghanistan for sheltering bin Laden. A Taliban broadcast Tuesday also called on all Muslims to wage holy war on America if it attacks the poor and war-ravaged central Asian country.
Since taking control of most of Afghanistan, the Taliban have declared holy wars against the northern-based, anti-Taliban alliance, Russia and Iran, but never the United States.
The Taliban sometimes summon the Islamic clerics from around the country to help them make important decisions.
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