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Australian Muslim Leaders Reject Taleban Jihad Call

Muslim leaders in Australia have united in rejecting the Taleban's call for a jihad or holy war, against Australia. The Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, has said Australia is a target because of its involvement in the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the Taleban's threat of war on his country is not surprising and tighter security measures already are in place. He praised Islamic leaders in Australia for condemning the jihad threat.

Mr. Howard said the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan had nothing to do with religion but was focused on the elimination of a worldwide terrorist network.

Mr. Howard has moved quickly to calm the fears in the country following the Taleban's warning of a holy war. "We can't ignore it, but we shouldn't overreact," he said. "We have been on a heightened security alert since the 11th of September and it doesn't really change anything in that regard. We can't ignore it. We can't pretend something will never happen here. On the other hand we shouldn't be overwhelmed by it and we have to get on with our lives."

The Islamic Council in the Australian state of Victoria has rejected the Taleban's call for Muslims to rise up against Australia. The council's president, Yasser Soliman, says his people are only interested in peace and do not take any orders from overseas calling them to war.

Mr. Soliman said Australian Muslims had received similar calls in the past, from Saddam Hussein during the Gulf war and from Osama bin Laden, which had been overwhelmingly rejected.

Australia's opposition leader Kim Beazley, campaigning ahead of the general election on November 10, has supported Prime Minister Howard's stance on the Taleban threat. He said it emphasized the need for Australians to remain solid as a community.