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White House Rejects Taleban Offer to Free Foreign Aid Workers - 2001-10-06


The Bush administration has rejected a Taleban offer to release eight foreign aid workers, if the United States stops making threats against the fundamentalist Islamist movement.

A White House official said today (Saturday) President Bush would not discuss a proposal made hours earlier by the Taleban foreign ministry. A Taleban statement said eight employees of the German-based relief agency Shelter Now would be released, if Washington stopped making threats against Afghanistan. The aid workers -- six women and two men from the United States, Australia and Germany -- are being tried on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The workers deny the charges.

The White House official made clear the president will not negotiate the terms of an ultimatum issued following the September 11th attacks on the United States for the Taleban to surrender Saudi exile Osama bin Laden to face charges of terrorism. President Bush also demanded the Taleban shut down Mr. bin Laden's al-Qaida network, or face the consequences.

In his Saturday radio address, President Bush warned the Taleban they were running out of time to turn over all terrorists in Afghanistan and to close their training camps and operations. Meanwhile, the Taleban has announced its spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has ordered the release of a British journalist who was detained late last month for entering Afghanistan illegally.

A Taleban spokesman said Yvonne Ridley will be freed by Sunday.

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