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(AP)--Taliban Willing to Negotiate

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  • newyorktaliban@aol.com
    Taliban Willing to Negotiate By KATHY GANNON .c The Associated Press KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Four weeks into the U.S.-led air campaign, a senior Taliban
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2001
      Taliban Willing to Negotiate

      .c The Associated Press

      KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Four weeks into the U.S.-led air campaign, a senior
      Taliban official said Wednesday the ruling militia is willing to negotiate an
      end to the conflict. But he demanded proof of Osama bin Laden's involvement
      in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

      ``That's the message for Americans,'' chief Taliban spokesman Amir Khan
      Muttaqi said in an interview with the first Western reporter allowed into
      Kabul since the bombing began Oct. 7.

      President Bush launched the air assault after the Taliban refused to hand
      over bin Laden, chief suspect in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
      Center and the Pentagon.

      ``We do not want to fight,'' Muttaqi told The Associated Press. ``We will
      negotiate. But talk to us like a sovereign country. We are not a province of
      the United States, to be issued orders to. We have asked for proof of Osama's
      involvement, but they have refused. Why?''

      State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Taliban already had
      plenty of proof.

      ``All one has to do is watch television to find Osama bin Laden claiming
      responsibility for the September 11 bombings. There is no question of
      responsibility. There is no question of the responsibility of the Taliban,
      and there's no question of what they should do,'' Boucher said.

      In Afghanistan there is no television and the only source of news is the
      radio broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of
      America in the local languages.

      Muttaqi made no mention of the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York,
      but the Taliban have consistently condemned the attack. They maintain bin
      Laden's involvement in those crimes remains unproven.

      Before the bombing campaign began, Bush brushed aside numerous offers from
      the Taliban to negotiate bin Laden's status - including offers to hand him
      over to a third country or even try him here under Islamic law.

      The United States has repeatedly said that the demand to surrender bin Laden
      and his lieutenants in the al-Qaida network is not negotiable, and waves of
      bombers have pounded the capital and other cities.

      During the interview, Muttaqi, who also is education minister, exuded
      confidence, arguing in effect that Afghanistan's weakness was its strength.
      U.S. bombing, he maintained, will not crack the Taliban, which claims no
      senior figure in its movement was killed in the four-week campaign.

      ``We don't have anything for the American bombs to destroy,'' he said. ``We
      are not a country with a sophisticated computer system, a big, important
      telecommunications system or modern aviation system to destroy.''

      Muttaqi spoke in his spartan office with a Kalashnikov rifle on the table
      before him. His two security guards also carried assault rifles.

      ``Each Afghan has a rifle in his home and each Afghan's home is his bunker,''
      Muttaqi said.

      If there were no negotiations, Muttaqi, along with other Taliban leaders,
      indicated that the war would turn into a conflict on the ground in which the
      Taliban would prevail - as the Afghans did against the Soviets in the
      1979-1989 war.

      During an interview with visiting foreign journalists in Kandahar, Foreign
      Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil challenged the United States and Britain to
      send in ground troops.

      ``Let them come here in the ground,'' he said. ``We will fight and let's see
      who will win.''

      Afghanistan, ravaged by more than two decades of war, is one of the world's
      poorest countries, annual average income in a good year is barely $200.

      Even before the bombs began to fall, the United Nations called Afghanistan a
      humanitarian crisis -- perhaps the world's worst.

      Kabul, the capital, lies largely in ruins, destroyed by an earlier civil war.
      The estimated 1 million people are mostly those too poor to flee.

      Although Islamic governments have distanced themselves from the Taliban, many
      Muslims sympathize with bin Laden and the embattled Taliban, and Muttaqi
      hinted at a possible Muslim backlash against the United States if the
      conflict continues.

      ``America, what do you want to do?'' Muttaqi said. ``Don't make Muslims
      everywhere angry. Muslims have no problem with Americans. It is American
      policy they disagree with. America should not oblige thousands and thousands
      of Muslims the world over to feel for the victims of the bombing because they
      will cause more trouble for America.''

      AP-NY-10-31-01 2018EST

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