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Pakistan Delegation to Head to Afghanistan - 2001-09-16


A Pakistani delegation hopes to travel to Afghanistan today (Monday) to persuade Taleban authorities to quickly hand over alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. He has been identified as the prime suspect in last Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the United States.

Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, said Sunday her country's delegation will leave as soon as it gets permission from the U-N sanctions committee to fly to Afghanistan.

The ambassador told U-S television the delegation will tell Afghanistan's hardline Islamist Taleban leadership they must hand over Osama bin Laden for trial on terrorism charges -- or face U-S retaliation.

Reuters news agency quotes Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Shamshad Ahmad, as saying permission has been given for the visit to go ahead. The meetings are expected to take place in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Sunday, Osama bin Laden was again quoted as denying responsibility for Tuesday's attacks, and Taleban officials said they would continue protecting him.

Meanwhile, the United States is expected to send a diplomatic team to Pakistan in the next few days to discuss its cooperation in the war against terrorism.

Pakistan's willingness to cooperate with the United States comes despite opposition from hardline Islamic groups in the country.

The Washington Post newspaper says one of Afghanistan's northern neighbors, Uzbekistan, has agreed to allow the United States to use its territory for attacks against Afghanistan. Tajikistan, meanwhile, has yet to decide.

Meanwhile food prices in Afghanistan are rising and the national currency is plunging as worried residents of Kabul flee the Afghan capital in fear of a U-S attack. Fleeing Afghans face heavily guarded borders into Iran and Pakistan, where many Afghan refugees already live.

In other developments, the Associated Press says foreign aid agencies pulled out their last remaining workers from Afghanistan on Sunday.

The report says the only foreign aid workers remaining in the country are eight Westerners facing trial on charges of promoting Christianity.

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