Taliban Rejects President Bush’s Demands

Responding to the president’s address before Congress on Thursday, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef announced the Taliban’s refusal and said the president’s demand poses great danger for Muslims worldwide.

Speaking in Arabic at a news conference, Zaeef repeated the Taliban’s position, that the United States disclose evidence linking bin Laden to the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Zaeef said that until that request is met the Taliban would have nothing further to say regarding bin Laden.

Mr. Zaeef also asked the United Nations to investigate the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. He reiterated that the Taliban government was prepared to defend Afghanistan against attack.

“If they want to show their might, we are ready and we will never surrender before might and force,” Zaeef said. “It has angered Muslims of the world and can plunge the whole region into a crisis.”

The ambassador’s defiant comments dimmed hope that a decree issued on Thursday by the Taliban’s senior Muslim clerics, might open the way to the handover of Mr. bin Laden. After a contentious meeting, 1000 Muslim clerics from all over Afghanistan issued an edict saying the Taliban should ask bin Laden to leave the country. Zaeef described the clerics’ decision as a suggestion and not a judicial decision.

In other parts of the Muslim world, the U.S. call for a united stand against terrorism was met with mixed reaction. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit offered full cooperation with the United States.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said, ” If we want to wipe put terrorism, the problem in Palestine must be eradicated as well as that in Iraq and Chechnya.”

In the Middle East, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Arabs would not help in an international war against terrorism if Israel participated. During the Gulf War many Arab nations imposed similar conditions before assisting.

Thousands of Muslims protested across Pakistan Friday.

At least three people were shot dead and dozens arrested as they protested their president’s decision to help the United States track down Osama bin Laden and punish his Taliban protectors. Most of the violence was in the southern port city of Karachi, where police fought protesters and fired tear gas following Friday prayers during which some Muslim clerics gave sermons in support of bin Laden and the Taliban.

Further protests have been called for Sunday, including one in the capital, Islamabad.

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