October 12, 2001
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Taleban again thumbs nose at US demand for Osama

Muhammad Najeeb in Islamabad

Six days after US-led air strikes in Afghanistan, the Taleban remains unmoved by President George Bush's renewed demand to hand over terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden immediately.

Taleban envoy to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef laughed away Bush's offer to 'reconsider' military strikes against the regime if it hands over bin Laden, saying the US will make some 'more offers' after losing more in the war.

"We reject this offer. The world has seen that the Afghans cannot be dictated," Zaeef said on Friday.

Asked if the Taleban were ready to hold talks with the US or any other country, he said: "Anyone who wants to talk to the leadership or visit Afghanistan is welcome, but we haven't invited anyone, nor will we anyone invite for dialogue."

He claimed the US plan was to take control of natural resources in Central Asia and that bin Laden was not the real target.

"Their motive is not to capture Osama, but have access to Central Asia and China," he said.

"Even if we fulfil all the demands of Bush, he will not stop strikes because his motives are totally different... and to gain this first (control of Central Asia) they have killed their own people now they were killing Afghans."

He reiterated bin Laden was not permitted to launch terrorist attacks against any country from Afghan soil and that he had no communication channels with the outside world.

Zaeef said the 'real war with Americans' and their allied forces would be fought on ground as Afghan fighters were determined not to let a single enemy soldier return alive.

"The Americans should send as many coffins along with the soldiers if they want the bodies to be buried in their country," he said.

Zaeef said the Taleban 'armed forces' were fully determined to defend their homeland. The Afghans, he said, had not only become war-hardened in the last 20 years, but had also become accustomed to all sorts of hardships.

He urged the international community and media to understand ground realities of Afghanistan.

He said America was 'deceiving' the international community by claiming that the US-led forces were hitting only fixed targets while they were actually attacking and killing civilians, including women and children and destroying houses.

He said, according to the information he received from their ministry in Kabul, at least 270 people have been killed -- mostly women, children and elderly men.

He said all young Afghans are in the battlefield waiting for 'American soldiers to come'.

Zaeef said hundreds of houses had been destroyed by bombings in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and other parts of Afghanistan. Zaeef said four close relatives of Taleban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar were killed in the attacks. He, however, refused to identify Omar's relatives.

Indo-Asian News Service

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