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Pakistan: Taleban Firm in Rejection of US Demands - 2001-09-30

Pakistan says the ruling Taleban movement in neighboring Afghanistan is showing no sign of flexibility in its refusal to hand over alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Two delegations from Pakistan have held talks with Afghanistan's Taleban rulers in recent days but they failed to persuade the Taleban to surrender suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden to the United States.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Moinuddeen Haider said even though the Taleban has stood firm to its rejection of U.S. demands, his country will continue to talk to Taleban rulers on the issue. "I think their [the Taleban] view is very clear and this demand has been there for now almost over two years," he added. "And on that they have not budged. But it is our job that we have to keep trying to convince people and to air the world's concern to them."

On Friday, a government-sponsored Pakistani delegation of religious leaders returned home empty-handed after failing to persuade the Taleban to hand over Osama bin Laden. But the two sides agreed on the need for more such meetings.

Pakistan is the only country that has diplomatic ties with the Taleban, which is sheltering Mr. Bin Laden. Taleban leaders say he is innocent of the terrorism charges.

President Bush says the Saudi fugitive is behind the terror attacks on U.S. cities. He has promised to take action against those responsible for the attacks, and Pakistan says it will cooperate in any such action. That policy has come under fire from pro-Taleban hardline Islamic groups in Pakistan.

Pakistan minister Haider said the details of the cooperation are still being worked out. He says that at present there are no U.S. troops in Pakistan. He also denied reports that police in Pakistan have arrested people in connection with U.S. attacks. "If somebody has certain specific people in mind or if they have some leads available to them in the [United] States, FBI or somebody, and if they ask us, certainly we will make those arrests."

The United States has promised Pakistan it would provide evidence of who was behind the attacks that killed more than 6,000 people. U.S. officials say so far, the evidence they have uncovered ties members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization to those attacks.