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Blair Confirms Afghan Opposition Progress in Mazar-e-Sharif - 2001-11-09


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Afghan opposition forces are advancing quickly against the Taleban militia in northern Afghanistan. The issue came up after a meeting between Mr. Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

Prime Minister Blair was asked at a news conference if he could confirm a claim by the Afghan opposition that they have captured the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif. "What we know is that there has been substantial progress in the taking of Mazar-e-Sharif," he said. "We don't know exactly what the current state of play there is. But I don't think there's any doubt at all the military momentum is moving against the Taleban."

Mr. Blair confirmed that his government will soon release more documentation on why Osama bin Laden is considered the chief suspect in September's terrorist attacks in the United States. British officials say transcripts of recent Osama bin Laden video tapes will show he has made a number of what they call "self-incriminatory statements" about the attacks.

Besides discussing the campaign against terrorism, Mr. Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar dealt with European economic reform and the dispute over the British colony of Gibraltar. The British and Spanish foreign ministers will discuss the future of Gibraltar in Barcelona on November 20. The countries have set a December, 2002, deadline to settle the dispute.

Britain has controlled Gibraltar, on the southern tip of Spain, for nearly 300 years, and the 27,000 residents there want no changes in their status. Britain's deputy foreign minister for Europe, Peter Hain, said Friday that no matter what happens, Gibraltar's people will never be stripped of their British citizenship.

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