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Afghan Leadership Rejects Bush Demands

Afghanistan's Taleban leadership has rejected President Bush's call to surrender alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

In a rebuke to President Bush's call for the Taleban to turn over Osama bin Laden and his followers or "share their fate", the Taleban ambassador to Pakistan said no such action will be taken.

Speaking at a crowded news conference in the Pakistani capital, Abdul Salam Zaeef said the Taleban believe Osama bin Laden is not responsible for terrorist attacks that killed more than 6,000 people last week in the United States.

Ambassador Zaaef says the United States must show proof of the Saudi fugitive's involvement in the terrorist attacks before the Taleban will consider any request to surrender their "guest." He says the Taleban is ready to cooperate with any investigation to catch what he described as the "real culprits." But he says his country will not bow to what he describes as any unfair pressure from the United States.

About 1,000 Islamic clerics from Taleban-controlled areas in Afghanistan ended a two-day "shura" or council meeting Thursday in Kabul. They issued a recommendation to the Taleban leadership that they encourage the alleged terrorist, that if possible at some time in the future, he leave the country voluntarily.

But Ambassador Zaaef says that recommendation should only be considered as advice and Taleban leaders are not required to follow it.

The Taleban envoy expressed sympathy for the victims of last week's terrorist attacks and appealed for restraint, saying the United States should not attack Afghanistan.

He also repeated Taleban statements that a "jihad," or holy war will be declared on non-Muslims who attack an Islamic country, adding that any Muslims who join in the effort will also face an automatic death penalty.