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Taleban Denies US Claim of 'Air Superiority'

Taleban authorities say Allied Forces have not achieved "air superiority" over Afghanistan. Taleban officials also say they have lifted restrictions on Osama bin Laden and that he is free to wage war against the United States.

The Taleban Ambassador to Islamabad, Abdul Salaam Zaeef, said U.S. and British jets are flying too high to be struck by Taleban air defenses, but the Taleban still has air defense capabilities. The Ambassador's comments came as U.S. warplanes conducted daylight strikes against targets in the southern Afghan city, Kandahar.

The strikes took place as Taleban authorities said they had lifted all restrictions on Osama bin Laden. Earlier, Taleban authorities had placed the Saudi fugitive under what they called their "protection." Now the Taleban says Mr. bin Laden is free to wage war against the United States.

A spokesman for the bin Laden al-Qaida group said because of U.S. strikes on terrorist targets in Afghanistan, Americans can expect to see more terrorist attacks in the United States.

Speaking to VOA, Ambassador Zaaef said no individual statement such as the one from al-Qaida can determine a country's policy, but as long as the U.S. attacks targets in Afghanistan, it will not be safe. "The al-Qaida statement was that if America continues its attacks on the people of Afghanistan, and also continues with these policies against Muslims, [Americans] should be confronted with the same attacks," he said. "And, this is known. If killing Muslim people and threatening the Muslim world continues, the reaction will not be good."

President Bush and other world leaders have stressed the strikes are aimed at eliminating the terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan, and are not aimed at Afghans or Muslims.

Ambassador Zaeef said the Taleban would still like to see the crisis solved through negotiations. "We believe the Americans should come back to the negotiations and dialogue," he said. "We have repeated that many times that the solution of the problem is the way of negotiations, not war."

Ambassador Zaeef also said opposition Northern Alliance forces have not made gains against the Taleban, even though alliance officials have said U.S. and British planes have carried out strikes against Taleban positions along the battle line with the Northern Alliance. He also says reports of Taleban troops trying to cross the border into Pakistan to defect are false.

There have been reports of clashes along the border between Pakistani troops and Taleban forces trying to leave Afghanistan. A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says he could not confirm the reports.