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Jackson: No plans to go to Afghanistan


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (CNN) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday he has no plans to go to Afghanistan for talks with the ruling Taliban on averting a conflict with the United States or releasing eight Western aid workers.

"We will continue to talk with ministers and clergy around the world to work and pray for a peaceful conclusion," Jackson said, but he added, "A delegation in the present environment may not achieve the desired results."

Jackson encouraged the Taliban to accept a "world court over the deadly option of world war" by cooperating with U.S. demands to hand over suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his associates, and to release the detained aid workers, whom the Taliban charge with violating their strict Islamic law.

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The Bush administration recommended against any such trip to Afghanistan, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday.

"The administration's position is clear: The United States government is not going to negotiate or have any discussions with the Taliban," Fleischer said.

The United States is preparing possible military operations against Afghanistan because the Taliban have refused to hand over accused terrorist Osama bin Laden, whom President Bush has called the prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Jackson said Wednesday he was invited by the Taliban earlier this week to help avoid a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Afghanistan by forming a delegation to travel to the region to negotiate a peace deal.

He also was asked by the parents of two jailed American aid workers to help secure their daughters' release, along with six other Western aid workers who are being held by the Taliban on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Jackson has previously led missions that resulted in the release of a downed U.S. Navy pilot from Syria in 1984, the repatriation of Americans held in Iraq before the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and in the return of three captured U.S. soldiers from Yugoslavia during the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

But the civil rights leader and former CNN talk-show host suffered a blow to his reputation earlier this year, when he admitted he had fathered a child out of wedlock with a former mistress, an employee of his Rainbow/PUSH coalition.


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