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Pakistani Sources Say Taleban Offered Deal To Hand Over Bin Laden - 2001-10-18


Sources in Pakistan say the Taleban's foreign minister proposed a deal for handing over Osama bin Laden during a meeting with Pakistani officials earlier this week.

The sources say Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil -- regarded as a moderate among the hardline Taleban leadership -- suggested that the suspected terrorist leader could be turned over for trial if U-S forces stopped their airstrikes in Afghanistan.

London's Guardian newspaper says that under terms of the deal, Mr. bin Laden would be turned over to a country other than the United States and the Taleban would not insist on seeing evidence linking him with the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The meeting reportedly took place in Islamabad, although Pakistani officials have denied such a session took place.

The Taleban foreign minister also reportedly met with representatives of exiled Afghan king Muhammad Zahir Shah.

There were reports that Mr. Muttawakil had defected, signaling a rift in the Taleban ranks. But Pakistani sources say Mr. Muttawakil has returned to Afghanistan.

The Taleban has thus far refused U-S demands to unconditionally turn over Mr. bin Laden and leaders of his Al-Qaida network. U-S officials accuse Osama bin Laden of masterminding the deadly September 11th terrorist attacks.

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