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Brace Yourselves...

Sources: Pakistan to demand bin Laden handover

September 16, 2001 Posted: 9:02 a.m. EDT (1302 GMT)

(CNN) -- Pakistan's government was preparing to demand that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden within three days.

CNN learned Sunday that Pakistan will threaten massive military action led by the United States unless Kabul complies. U.S. President George W. Bush has characterized bin Laden as the "prime suspect" in Tuesday's attacks.

The head of Pakistan's intelligence is likely to travel to Afghanistan in the next 24 hours carrying this message to the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

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Taliban given three days to hand over bin Laden
September 16, 2001 Posted: 9:12 AM EDT (1312 GMT)


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan is to warn the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan they have three days to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden or face massive military action led by the U.S.

The ultimatum comes as Pakistan makes eleventh-hour diplomatic efforts to prevent a military strike in the region.

It follows a late-night telephone conversation between U.S. President George W. Bush and his Pakistan counterpart Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

CNN has learned that a Pakistan emissary will be going to Afghanistan within the next 24 hours to deliver the message to the Taliban, a move called "very encouraging" by a senior Bush administration official Sunday.

"We are not in way expecting the Taliban response to be positive," the administration official said, "but it shows the degree to which Pakistan has decided to step up and publicly try to help us here."

It is not clear whether the message comes directly from Pakistan or whether the country is delivering it on behalf of the U.S.

The spiritual leader of the Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, called Islamic clerics to gather in Kabul on Sunday for an urgent meeting.

Pakistan, one of only three countries that recognize the hard-line Islamic Taliban leaders, has already opened more lines of communication with the Taliban. One of the Taliban's special envoys is already in Islamabad discussing the same issue.

Also, officials expect hundreds and thousands of Afghan refugees to stream into Pakistan as fears of a military strike increase.

Meanwhile, in Lahore, leaders from 42 of Pakistan's political parties met to discuss their opposition to Musharraf's cooperation with the United States.

The parties plan to deliver a message to the Pakistani president Sunday that they do not want the U.S. to use Pakistan's land, sea, or air in the event of a strike against neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan has reiterated its position to fully back the international community to fight terrorism and, at the same time, has conveyed to the United States that it wants Washington to assist its economy.

It has also asked Washington to retire its $30 billion debt to international lenders. It also wants the United States to play a more active role in helping it solve the Kashmir problem with India.

According to sources, Pakistan has conveyed to Washington that it does not want Israeli or Indian participation in any military operation around or close to its borders.

The sources say Pakistan has insisted that any arrangement involved airspace only, that no U.S. forces use Pakistan soil.

Meanwhile, in Iran leaders have been locked in long meetings to examine the developments in the United States and elsewhere in the wake of Tuesday's attack to draw up a strategy for dealing with the crisis.

On Saturday, Iran ordered security forces to close its 900 kilometer (559 mile) border with Afghanistan.

U.S. officials describing initial Iranian response to the attacks as "positive" has encouraged many in the country who feared Iran could be picked on as a possible target in President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

Both hard-liners and moderates in Iran have strongly condemned the attacks on innocent lives, expressing sympathy with the American people, although making no mention of the U.S. government.

And in the U.S., officials have gone on the record, saying the United States would like to build on Iran's sympathetic response.

Iranian leaders have yet to make any statement on how they propose to position themselves.

And sources close to the government say up to 10,000 Afghans may have entered Iran in the past few days as fears grew of an imminent U.S. attack against targets in the country.

Iran is already home to at least two million Afghan refugees who fled warfare in their country over the past 22 years.

On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry of Tajikistan told CNN it denies reports that it would allow U.S. troops to take up positions in Tajikistan for possible military strikes on terrorist bases in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Interfax news agency is reporting that Russian troops of the 201st Division deployed in Tajikistan have been placed on higher alert, "taking into account the developing situation in the region."

The Russian foreign minister could not confirm the report, which quotes the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Tajikistan has thousands of forces on the border between the two countries. Russian forces also are on the border and some have speculated that Tajikistan and Russia might allow the United States to launch operations from there.

The Tajik Foreign Ministry dismisses that speculation as "rumors."
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