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Pakistani Clerics Meet with the Taleban

A group of senior Pakistani clerics accompanied by the head of Pakistan's Intelligence Service met in Afghanistan Friday with the Taleban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. The trip was part of Pakistan's effort to try to persuade the ruling Taleban movement to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

In a surprise development Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced a delegation of Pakistani clerics who traveled to Kandahar on Friday were accompanied by General Mehmood Ahmed, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

General Mehmood led a high ranking delegation to Kandahar nearly two weeks ago that failed to persuade the Taleban to surrender alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaida organization. President Bush says the bin Laden organization is responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan says General Mehmood is not carrying any new proposals or suggestions to convince the Taleban to surrender Osama bin Laden. He also says the religious leaders, known collectively as the Ulema are traveling on their own and have received no instructions from the government.

"This delegation which as gone is not a Pakistani delegation in the strict sense," Mr. Khan said. "It is a delegation of the Ulema accompanied by the DGIS (Director General ISI). So as far as any proposal is concerned, what we were telling them [the Taleban] when the first delegation went was a message that this is what the international community expects you to do. And that remains our position."

Meanwhile the newspaper USA Today reports that American special forces soldiers have been inside Afghanistan for nearly two weeks searching for Osama bin Laden and members of his organization. The newspaper, quoting un-named Pakistani and U.S. sources says teams of commandos are searching remote areas where the Saudi fugitive has been known to operate, but have been unable to locate him. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said Friday it had no information about the report. A Defense Department spokesman in Washington says the department will not comment on any operational matters.