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Afghanistan: President Rules Out Amnesty For Fugitive Taliban Leader Mullah Omar

Hamid Karzai (file photo) Afghan President Hamid Karzai has retracted a statement in which he said that all willing Afghan members of the Taliban are eligible for an amnesty offer. Yesterday, Karzai suggested that even Mullah Mohammad Omar would be eligible for the amnesty -- provided he chooses the path of peace. But today, following a Taliban statement that Mullah Omar had rejected the offer, Karzai said there would be no amnesty for the fugitive Taliban leader.

Prague, 11 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he has specifically ruled out an amnesty offer for Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Speaking during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels today, Karzai said an amnesty for Mullah Omar had never been announced.

"We have not spoken of an amnesty for Mullah Omar," Karzai said. "We have spoken of an amnesty for the Taliban -- those Taliban who want to come back and live in their country peacefully. It is for those people. Those who are part of Al-Qaeda [and] who are part of the continuation of terrorism are not going to be given amnesty."

Yesterday in Strasbourg, however, Karzai had responded differently when asked by journalists to clarify whether Mullah Omar was eligible for the amnesty.

"That offer is there to all," he said. "Those who are part of Al-Qaeda, those who are part of terrorism, they will not come anyway because there is no place for them. But anybody that wants to move away from being used against our country and wants to live a legitimate life in Afghanistan is welcome."

The amnesty offer has been an issue since 9 May, when Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, the head of Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation commission, announced that Mullah Omar was, indeed, eligible.

Although Karzai had previously ruled out any amnesty for Mullah Omar and about 150 militants, Mojadeddi said the government in Kabul had changed that policy. He also said his commission has the independent powers to decide who is eligible for the amnesty.

Mullah Omar himself reportedly rejected the possibility of an amnesty. Abdul Latif Hakimi, a self-declared spokesman for the Taliban, told the French news agency AFP late yesterday that Mullah Omar and other hard-line members of the Taliban have vowed to "never surrender."

The United States is offering a $10 million bounty for Mullah Omar because of his role in sheltering the Al-Qaeda network and its leaders before and after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Today, Afghan officials announced that Al-Qaeda-trained Taliban commander Abdul Malik has become the latest militant to accept the amnesty offer. Provincial intelligence chief Mohammad Sadiq Parakhil says Malik surrendered in southeastern Afghanistan near Khost.

Malik told reporters in Khost yesterday that he has been fighting for Al-Qaeda since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Malik says he took part in many attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces and that all of those attacks were supported by Al-Qaeda.