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Blair Warns Taleban Military Action May be Near - 2001-10-02


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned Afghanistan's Taleban rulers time is running out for them to turn over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden or face ouster from power.

In an impassioned speech to the annual conference of his Labor Party in Brighton, England, the prime minister asked his audience to imagine the terror of the civilians, including children, facing death as terrorists aimed their hijacked aircraft toward targeted buildings. He blamed the attacks in New York and Washington last month on suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his Taleban allies. He said the Taleban regime has only two choices: surrender bin Laden or surrender power.

The British leader rejected efforts to link the attacks to defense of Islam, stressing that Muslims as well as members of other faiths were among the victims. Mr. Blair said any strikes will be directed at military targets and terrorist training camps and that every effort will be made to avoid civilian casualties. He stressed that there is no quarrel with the Afghan people and said the West is ready to help rebuild a post-Taleban Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a Taleban spokesman repeated the stand that Osama bin Laden can not be handed over to any country without evidence of his involvement in terrorist acts. Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters in Quetta that the Taleban is ready to negotiate the Saudi fugitive's surrender, but not without evidence that he was involved in terror attacks against the United States. President Bush has said there will be no negotiations.

Some information for this report provided by AP.

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