The decree came from a group of 1,000 Islamic leaders, known as an Ulema, that convened on Sept. 20 to consider the Saudi exile’s status. The Taliban initially said they could not locate bin Laden to deliver their decision, but it is reported he has now received the message.
“The edict had to be delivered by a messenger,” Taliban Information Minister Qudrutullah Jamal told Reuters by telephone from Kabul. “It’s not like we can pick up the phone and talk to Osama, or fax a message to him. He has no such facilities, so the message had to be sent through a messenger who probably took some time to find him.”
The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan confirmed that bin Laden had received the clerics’ decision.
“Osama has now received the Ulema council’s recommendations and their endorsement [by the leader of the Taliban],” Abdul Salam Zaeef said. “We have not lost Osama, but he is out of sight of the people.”
The Islamic clerics did not order bin Laden out of Afghanistan, but only urged he leave.
“The Ulema wants the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to encourage Osama to leave Afghanistan in the proper time and of his own free will,” Taliban-run Bakhtar news agency reported following the council’s decision.
The news came as two different diplomatic efforts appeared to move forward.
Reverend Jesse Jackson said he was weighing an invitation from the Taliban to travel to the war-torn nation to discuss the fate of eight detained foreign aid workers and Osama bin Laden.
Although the Taliban said they had not invited Jackson, officials did say that the reclusive leader of their group, Mullah Mohammed Omar, would be willing to meet with him.
In the U.S., Secretary of State Colin Powell said Jackson could go to Afghanistan but said he did not know “what purpose would be served right now.
“[Taliban officials] know what our position is.” Powell said, “We have nothing to negotiate.”
Afghan media reports also said a group of religious leaders from neighboring Pakistan would meet with Taliban leaders tomorrow to discuss the possible turnover of bin Laden.