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Afghanistan: Taliban Refuses To Hand Over Bin Laden

Islamabad, 21 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has rejected a call from U.S. President George W. Bush to hand over Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in last week's terror attacks on the United States. Bush said the U.S. condemns Afghanistan's Taliban rulers. He demanded that the Taliban immediately hand over bin Laden, who allegedly runs a terrorist network from hideouts in Afghanistan and is accused by the U.S. of masterminding last week's devastating terror strikes in New York City and Washington, in which some 6,500 people are estimated to have died.

But the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef, told the Afghan Islamic Press agency that this is impossible as it would be an insult to Islam.

The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, told a news conference in Islamabad today that the Taliban wants the U.S. to produce solid evidence of bin Laden's guilt first. He said a recommendation by Afghan clerics that bin Laden be asked to leave the country is not binding. Clerics gathered in Kabul yesterday recommended that the Taliban leadership ask bin Laden to leave voluntarily.

President Bush has challenged the countries of the world to decide where they stand: with the United States or with international terrorists.

In an address to a joint session of Congress last night Bush also issued a series of demands to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

Bush said that any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

"We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Bush said the United States intends to direct every resource it has -- diplomatic, intelligence, financial, legal, and military -- to defeat what he called "every terrorist group of global reach."

Bush demanded that the Taliban dismantle all terror training camps in Afghanistan, and also grant the U.S. full access to the camps to verify that terrorist activities have ceased.

Bush said these demands were not open to negotiation or discussion. Bush singled out groups affiliated with bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network -- including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He said there were "thousands" of terrorist operatives in more than 60 countries.

With U.S. warplanes and ships now heading to the Middle East region, Bush called on the U.S. military to "be ready." But he made no explicit comment about any impending military action.

Bush emphasized that the U.S. campaign is not against Islam, whose teachings he said are good and peaceful. Bush said that those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah.

Bush said Americans had suffered great harm and loss in last week's terror attacks. He vowed that justice would be done against those responsible.

Two U.S. dailies say the FBI has arrested a liquor-store clerk in Chicago believed to have links with two of the hijackers in last week's terror attacks on the United States.

The papers ("The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal") identify the man as 34-year-old Nabil Al-Marabh, who had eluded FBI agents earlier in the week in Detroit.

He was being held on immigration-related charges. In Paris, police detained seven people as part of a probe into terrorist threats made against U.S. interests in France.

Financial markets in Asia dropped significantly today in response to more steep losses in U.S. markets. The financial fallout from the terrorist attacks in the United States rippled through markets and left traders wondering how low prices will go.

Stocks in Tokyo dropped more than 2 percent in the middle of the trading day, and stocks in Hong Kong were down nearly 4 percent.

Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, or central bank, told a congressional committee yesterday that the American economy "ground to a halt," as he put it, after last week's attacks.

But Greenspan added that terror's impact need not be lasting. "The terrorism of September 11 will doubtless have significant effects on the U.S. economy over the short-term. An enormous effort will be required on the part of many to cope with the human and physical destruction."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 4 percent of its value yesterday.

European Union leaders are due to meet in Brussels today for an emergency summit to coordinate anti-terrorism actions.

Belgium, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, called the meeting. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Europe needs to ensure a "total mobilization against terrorism" following last week's devastating attacks on New York and Washington.

EU states that are also in NATO have already declared that the attacks on the U.S. constitute an attack on all alliance states, in line with NATO's mutual defense treaty.