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Reports that Taliban Leader is Now Ready to Hand Over Kandahar

Aired December 6, 2001 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to quickly bring you up to date on a breaking story out of Afghanistan -- reports that the Taliban leader is now ready to hand over Kandahar. Now, that word comes from the Afghan Islamic Press, an outlet that has in the past been met with some skepticism here in the U.S.

Bob Franken joins us now from the Pentagon -- Bob, what are officials telling you about this latest report -- good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the skepticism -- good morning. The skepticism, of course, is because of its close association with the Taliban. And at the Pentagon, that skepticism continues. The only reaction is, in effect, we know nothing. They say that they have no information that it's true. Of course, it would be greeted with happiness if, in fact, it was true. But we're reminded that sometimes a negotiating technique that is used is to announce a deal to try and make that announcement a self-fulfilling prophesy.

So, as I said, there is some skepticism here today, but they're talking about some sort of accommodation on a war that has been fighting fiercely now for so many days -- Kandahar, of course, the symbolic home of the Taliban. It was where the Taliban actually formed their government. It is the last real holdout for Afghanistan against opposition forces.

There have been discussions, we have been told by a variety of people -- one of the questions, of course, is what would happen to the supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, who has been so controversial, somebody the United States wants so badly. The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, here has repeatedly and vehemently made it clear he would oppose efforts for any sort of freedom for Omar. In fact, he made that same case last night as he appeared on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: He is the one who rejected every single one of the president's and the United States' requests that he turn over the al Qaeda leadership and Osama bin Laden and his leuitenants. He has been every bit as vicious and terroristic in his behavior. I don't know if that's the quite way to characterize it. He has been harboring a terrorist, and has been every bit as strong and anti-innocent people, as has Osama bin Laden. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: And so, Paula, what they have here is a situation they don't know. If an accommodation has been made, they don't know if whatever agreement has been reached would be satisfactory to the United States, and to use the kind of term we hear every once in a while, an officialese (ph) there watching this with great interest -- Paula.

ZAHN: Our pool reporter, Allen Peasy (ph), just reported from Kandahar live by videophone, and he suggested that the Marine mission will remain consistent for the time being. What else have you heard, as everybody tries to sort out the murky details of this story, will happen militarily?

FRANKEN: Well, militarily, the Marines have a mission that really wouldn't be affected by this, immediately at least. The announced mission is that the Marines will be interdicting, which is one of those terms we have learned as we've gone through this latest war. They will be setting up, in effect, roadblocks, trying to prevent the escape of the people who are wanted for arrest -- Osama bin Laden, of course, if he was there, Omar, if he was there, et cetera.

So that mission would continue if there was a surrender, of course. In fact, that might become a more important mission.

ZAHN: Bob Franken, thanks so much for that update.

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