|11 September 2001>News Stories>President Rejects Offer by Taliban for Negotiations
President Rejects Offer by Taliban for Negotiations
Elisabeth Bumiller . NYTimes . 15 October
President Bush forcefully rejected another offer from the Taliban today to begin talks about the surrender of Osama bin Laden if the United States stopped bombing Afghanistan.
"When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations," Mr. Bush told reporters upon landing on the South Lawn of the White House after returning from a weekend of intensive national security briefings at Camp David.
He added that he was not interested in discussing Mr. bin Laden's innocence or guilt. "We know he's guilty," he said.
Mr. Bush spoke as American aircraft continued to bomb Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan and while Islamic militants opposed to the campaign clashed with the police while trying to storm an air base in Pakistan.
"All they've got to do is turn him over, and his colleagues, and the thugs he hides," Mr. Bush said. He added: "And not only turn him over, turn the Al Qaeda organization over, destroy all the terrorist camps — actually, we're doing a pretty good job of that right now — and release the hostages they hold. That's all they've got to do. But there is no negotiation, period."
Eight foreign aid workers, among them two Americans, have been held by the Taliban since August on charges of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity. Such an action is a serious crime under the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law.
President Bush returned to the White House Sunday after a weekend of national security briefings.
Mr. Bush was responding to questions about statements by a Taliban leader who said at a news conference in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, that the Taliban would begin discussions about turning over Mr. bin Laden if the bombing stopped. The Taliban also want evidence from Washington that Mr. bin Laden is responsible for the attacks.
"We would be ready to hand him over to a third country," said Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the second in command to the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. "It can be negotiated provided the U.S. gives us evidence and the Taliban are assured that the country is neutral and will not be influenced by the United States."
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt moved through the Suez Canal Sunday to become part of the American operations against Afghanistan.
But Mr. Bush, who at a news conference last week said he would be willing to "reconsider" military operations if Mr. bin Laden was handed over, gave no such signal today.
Other administration officials dismissed the Taliban's offer as meaningless. It is similar to one the Taliban made a week ago as the United States started its airstrikes in Afghanistan.
"This is non-negotiable," Mr. Bush said. "These people, if they're interested in us stopping our military operations, we will do so if they meet the conditions that I outlined in my speech to the United States Congress. Just as simple as that. There's nothing to negotiate about."
In his speech to Congress, the president said the Taliban government could avoid destruction by meeting five conditions: delivering to the United States all leaders of Al Qaeda; releasing all foreign nationals, including American citizens; protecting foreign journalists, diplomats and aid workers; closing every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and handing over every terrorist and every person in the terrorists' support structure; and giving the United States full access to terrorist training camps.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell left his home in McLean, Va., Sunday for a diplomatic mission to Pakistan, India and China.
It was unclear if the latest offer from the Taliban was a sign of weakness on the part of their leadership as the bombing continued, or whether it was an attempt to appear reasonable to some members of the American-led coalition against Afghanistan, like Pakistan, which had until recently supported the Taliban.
Recent reports of civilian casualties from the air raids, including reports that many were killed in areas near the border with Pakistan, have fueled opposition to the war there.
Abdul Sattar, Pakistan's foreign minister, said today that "the longer this operation lasts, the greater the damage, and collateral damage, and the larger the number of Afghan refugees that enter Pakistan, the greater will be the worry and concern in Pakistan."
He spoke on the ABC News program "This Week."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell left Washington today for a trip to Pakistan, India and China. On Monday, large protests are expected to be held in Pakistan, as he meets with President Pervez Musharraf.
The Pentagon did not describe its targets on Sunday, the eighth day of the campaign. News agencies in the region said the capital, Kabul, was hit hard, as was another Taliban stronghold, Jalalabad. The Taliban's information ministry said Mazar-i- Sharif in the north, Herat in the west, and Kandahar in the south were also attacked.
The Associated Press quoted residents of Kabul as saying that American jets destroyed Kabul's Chinese- built international telephone exchange.
And the Afghan Islamic Press, a private news agency in Pakistan, said the lights went out in Kandahar after a nighttime attack on the military headquarters of the Taliban there.
Earlier today, Mr. Bush said in videotaped remarks to a meeting of medical professionals that America was experiencing "one of its darkest moments in our history" but that the nation would prevail.
"Even in the midst of this tragedy, the eternal lights of America's goodness and greatness have shown through," Mr. Bush told the American Society of Anesthesiologists in a speech taped earlier.
The president added, "Let me be clear about this: We will win the war on terrorism, and we will also continue to fight important battles at home."
Mr. Bush said his administration was still committed to passing a patients' bill of rights and reforming Medicare, proposals that have for now been hugely overshadowed by the administration's efforts to fight terrorism.