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White House Stands Firm on Demands to Taleban - 2001-09-21

The White House is standing firm in its demand that Afghanistan turn over alleged terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Afghanistan's Taleban rulers rejected President Bush's call to surrender leaders of the Bin Laden organization. But administration officials say their goal remains the same: to end the terrorist threat.

In a speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress, President Bush issued an ultimatum to the Taleban. Mr. Bush said they must turn over Osama Bin Laden and end their support for terrorism. If not, he warned, Afghanistan and the terrorists will share the same fate.

The Taleban was unmoved by his demands. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer says he was not surprised.

Mr. Fleischer told reporters the president's conditions are firm. Quoting from the speech to Congress, the White House spokesman said there will be no negotiations and no discussions. However, under questioning from reporters he indicated the administration would not stand in the way of diplomatic efforts by other countries to put pressure on the Taleban.

He was also asked if the United States intends to remove the Taleban from power. Mr. Fleischer said President Bush's goal is not to engage in nation building, but to protect Americans. He then rejected the notion that an attack on the Taleban might destabilize the region, saying harboring terrorists is destabilizing.

The White House spokesman said the president made clear in his speech that terrorism will be defeated and those who harbor terrorists will pay the price.

In that address, Mr. Bush also stressed the support the United States is receiving from nations around the world. The president has spent a lot of time since last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon trying to build an international coalition to fight terrorism.

On Friday, Mr. Bush placed calls to the presidents of Turkey and Nigeria and the sultan of Oman. He also conferred with his national security advisors and prepared for a meeting later in the day with China's foreign minister.