Articles

Nov 01, 1999

Bin Laden offers to leave Afghanistan

Suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden has offered to leave Afghanistan if it will prevent the United Nations from imposing sanctions against the country’s de facto rulers, Taliban officials said Friday. ..

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November 1, 1999
Web posted at: 12:44 p.m. HKT (0444 GMT)
From CNN-Time Correspondent Peter Bergen

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden has offered to leave Afghanistan if it will prevent the United Nations from imposing sanctions against the country’s de facto rulers, Taliban officials said Friday.

The United Nations two weeks ago voted to impose sanctions on the Taliban, which controls most of Afghanistan, if it did not turn over bin Laden by November 14.

The United States has been pressing the Taliban to hand the Saudi exile over to face trial for last year’s U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa. The bombings, in Tanzania and Kenya, killed 224 people.

 

David Leavy, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said that bin Laden’s offer to leave Afghanistan under the conditions of his letter would be unacceptable to the United States government.

The only acceptable way bin Laden can leave Afghanistan is if he is handed over “to the U.S. government or another government prepared to try him for his crimes,” said Leavy.

The U.N. resolution, drafted by the United States, would freeze the Taliban’s overseas assets and bans flights owned, leased or operated by the Taliban from taking off internationally.

It exempts humanitarian flights and those carrying pilgrims to Mecca.

Taliban officials said that bin Laden wrote to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the cleric who heads the Taliban, saying that he is willing to leave Afghanistan under two conditions:

1) that the Taliban leadership would help him reach his destination of choice; and

2) that his final destination remain a secret known only to Omar.

Omar replied that he would take bin Laden’s offer to the ruling council of the Taliban, and a decision would be made by the council within two or three days.

Terrorism to be topic of Albright meeting

At Friday’s State Department news briefing, spokesman Jamie Rubin was asked if bin Laden’s departure from Afghanistan would have an impact on U.S.-Afghan relations.

“We would prefer a situation where the Taliban was not harboring an international criminal who is wanted for the killing of Americans and Kenyans and Tanzanians. We would prefer that,” Rubin said. “And that would thus be a step in the right direction.”

Asked about a USA Today report that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will confront Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister, about reports that prominent Saudi businessmen are still bankrolling bin Laden, Rubin said: “I wouldn’t give an excessive amount of credence to that reporting at this time.”

The newspaper, quoting U.S. intelligence officials, said the Saudi businessmen are transferring tens of millions of dollars to bank accounts linked to bin Laden. Prince Sultan will meet with Albright on a visit to Washington next week.

“The question of terrorism — counterterrorism cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States — is one that comes up in every bilateral discussion that deals with security issues,” Rubin said.

“And therefore I would expect that Secretary Albright would be discussing with Saudi officials next Friday when she hosts a lunch for the Saudi defense minister the full range of counterterrorism issues. And that is normal and expected, but I wouldn’t assume that there is a link between that and anything you may or may not have read in the papers today.”

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