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Pakistan envoys deliver warning to Taliban



KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's top spy and a former ambassador to Afghanistan personally delivered a warning to Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel on Monday: Turn over Osama bin Laden or face military action from the United States.

Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, chief of intelligence services, and Aziz Khan of the Foreign Ministry traveled to Afghanistan early Monday and spent over an hour with Mutawakel.

"Time is short and you [the Taliban] should solve this problem," Khan told the Afghan Foreign Minister.

He said that all indications were the origin of attack on the U.S. came from Afghanistan and he stressed Pakistan was intent on obeying international law on matters of terrorism.

Mutawakel told the Pakistanis the matter would have to go to Afghanistan's highest authority. It is likely he meant the Taliban's reclusive supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

At the end of the meeting, the two Pakistanis left to an undisclosed location, possibly to meet Mullah Omar, though it was not confirmed. The Taliban's supreme leader currently lives in a secret residence.

Bin Laden denial

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The Pakistani envoys are expected to tell Mullah Mohammed Omar that the Taliban government has 72 hours to hand bin Laden over.

Bin Laden, a Saudi born multimillionaire was granted sanctuary in Afghanistan and has been living there for several years.

He has been identified by U.S. authorities as the "prime suspect" in last Tuesday's attacks in Washington and New York and is also thought to be linked to previous acts of terrorism.

In a statement issued Sunday, bin Laden denied he was behind the attacks.

"The U.S. government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it," according to the statement, read on Al Jazeera, the Arabic television news channel.

"I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons," bin Laden's statement read.

Taliban threat

Musharraf
Musharraf has vowed Pakistan will 'help the international community fight terrorism'.  

Meanwhile, the mood in Kandahar remains defiant.

At a meeting Sunday of Afghanistan's Ulemas (religious scholars) and Spingerays (tribal elders), Taliban leaders denounced the terrorist attacks, but vowed to fight any American attack on Afghanistan.

The Taliban government on Saturday also threatened to attack any neighboring country that allowed the United States to stage an attack against Afghanistan.

However, after a three hour meeting with his cabinet and security council on Saturday after the threat, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf announced that the government had unanimously voted to help the United States fight terrorism and pledged its full cooperation

"Pakistan has taken very serious note of the threat that has been hurled against Pakistan," Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told CNN from Islamabad.

"We are terribly saddened that a government and country that we have regarded as a neighbor, ... friend should use such language against a neighbor which is quite clearly in their mind, Pakistan."

Cooperation

Over the next few days, officials from several U.S. agencies, including the State Department, CIA, and military are expected to come to Pakistan for further consultations with government officials on how Pakistan can cooperate with the United States.

Sattar noted that Pakistan does not have "great influence" over the Taliban, despite what had been close ties.

"We have always emphasized in the past that it is important for Afghanistan and its people that the government should act in conformity with international law," Sattar said.

"Of course, the assumption that Pakistan is in a position to exercise complete influence is flawed."

After reiterating its position to back the international community to fight terrorism Pakistan has also conveyed to the U.S. that it wants Washington to take some steps in return.

It has asked Washington to see that Pakistan's $30 billion debt to international lenders is retired.

It also wants the U.S. to play a more active role in helping it solve the Kashmir problem.

Pakistan and India both claim the Kashmir region and have gone to war over it three times. According to sources, Pakistan has conveyed to Washington that it does not want Israeli or Indian participation in any military operation near its borders.







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