The United States has renewed its demand to Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement to surrender alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden for trial on terrorism charges. Mr. bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan, is accused of masterminding the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, reiterated the demand in a meeting with Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef. This was the first high-level contact between the Taleban and the Bush administration.
After the meeting, Ms. Rocca told reporters that her discussions with Mr. Zaeef focussed on security-related issues. She says a latest UN Security Council decision to deploy sanctions monitors in countries bordering Afghanistan also came under discussions. Ms. Rocca says she told the Taleban official that the monitoring would not be necessary if alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden is surrendered. "We talked about the fact that it will be hard to make serious progress unless Taleban support for terrorists stopped. And there are terrorist training camps within Afghanistan, which they are allowing to continue," she said.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed economic and military sanctions against the Taleban for refusing to expel Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan. The Saudi dissident is living under Taleban protection. He is one of America's most wanted men for allegedly masterminding the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
Taleban ambassador Zaeef says he told Ms. Rocca that his country wants to resolve the bin Laden issue through talks with the United States, but it supports a solution that can respect Islamic tenets, dignity, and the Afghan traditions. Mr. Zaeef says he gave Ms. Rocca full assurance that the Afghan territory will not be use used against the United States.
Meanwhile, Ms. Rocca says that in recognition of the Taleban's elimination of opium poppy, the United States is giving $1.5 million dollars to the United Nations Drug Control Program to finance crop substitution in Afghanistan. Aid workers have expressed concern that the foreign donors are not doing enough to help Afghan farmers rebuild their incomes. Until recently Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of opium.