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Jackson Not Decided on Trip to Afghanistan - 2001-09-27


American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson says he has not yet decided on traveling to Afghanistan to meet with the country's ruling Taleban.

Mr. Jackson says the trip would focus on two issues -- making progress toward securing the hand-over of Osama bin Laden and gaining the release of eight foreign aid workers held hostage by the Taleban on charges of promoting Christianity.

Mr. Jackson says he believes the Taleban wants to resolve the situation over Osama bin Laden in a way that preserves the dignity of all sides involved. He says he thinks the Taleban is feeling the global pressure to side with the world-wide coalition against terrorism.

The civil rights activist noted he has handled similar hostage challenges in Syria, Cuba, Kuwait, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia."

The United States says it will not block Mr. Jackson's proposed peace mission, but at the same time Washington will not back the mission.

Interviewed on U-S television (N-B-C's Today Show) today (Thursday), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the United States is interested in action and not dialogue by Afghanistan's ruling Taleban.

Meanwhile, The Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaaef, says Mr. Jackson was not invited to mediate or travel to Afghanistan by the Taleban, as Mr. Jackson says. However, he says Mr. Jackson is welcome to visit Afghanistan if he likes.

But Taleban officials say if Mr. Jackson does visit Afghanistan, he will not meet with the Taleban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

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