A senior Taleban official says alleged terrorist Osama Bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan and has probably received a message from Taleban authorities requesting him to leave the country, voluntarily.
The development comes as a senior U.S. Defense Department team concludes talks in Islamabad with Pakistani officials on how the U.S.-led military effort to combat terrorism is proceeding.
Just a few days ago, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaaef, the Taleban ambassador to Islamabad, said that Taleban authorities had "lost the whereabouts" of Osama Bin Laden. But, in an interview with Britain's Channel Four news, Ambassador Zaaef now says the Saudi fugitive is, "living in an unknown hideout." The ambassador says the Taleban will not hand over the alleged terrorist and that there is no room for compromise on the issue.
The latest statements from the Taleban came as senior Pakistani military officials called two days of talks with their U.S. counterparts successful, saying there was "complete unanimity" on the issue of combating terrorism.
General Rashid Qureshi, the senior spokesman for the Pakistani Government says, although "Pakistan will contribute to efforts to crush terrorism wherever it is," Islamabad "will not be involved in any action plan against Afghanistan."
Pakistani officials have voiced concern over international efforts to support the opposition Nothern Alliance in Afghanistan at the expense of the Taleban. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohamed Khan says Afghans will not accept a government imposed on them against their will.
"Afghanistan's history is before everybody. No puppet regime has ever survived in Afghanistan. Afghans are a fiercely independent people," he said.
Taleban forces control about 90 percent of Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance controlling the rest. For their part, U.S. officials have said they are worried about stability in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will try look for "fissures" within the Taleban, and convince some members it is in their best interest to cooperate with the international effort to bring Osama Bin Laden and members of his al-Quaida organization to justice.