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Jesse Jackson suggests a 'moral appeal' strategy


(CNN) -- CNN Anchor Bill Hemmer spoke by phone with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday about the prospect of going to Afghanistan.

HEMMER: Throughout the day you may have been with us at various talking about the possibility of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, serving as a mediator, flying to Afghanistan between the U.S. Government and the Taliban government. The Reverend is with us by telephone now in Washington. Reverend Jackson, we have had different reports at different times that indicate what may or may the not happen. At this point, Sir, will you go to Afghanistan or not?

JACKSON: Let me say, CNN erroneously reported that we were not going, that we had made a decision. We have not made that decision. We are waiting for more information. There are two tracks of concerns here. One is the eight Christians who are there, two of whom are Americans.

I talked with the parents of the American Christians today. We have committed ourselves to help in any way we can to gain their release. The second track is to follow-up meeting the talk with the Taliban spokesperson, Mohammed Shaheen is what they are willing to do. Are they willing to choose to release Osama bin Laden and his emissaries and have the camps inspected and go through a judicial world court process?

Would they choose world war over world court. We hope they will make that choice. We are perfectly willing to talk with them to make that moral appeal.

HEMMER: Colin Powell last hour said there is, "nothing to negotiate." Senior officials from the White House say a visit by you would not helpful. If that is the case, why still entertain the possibility?

JACKSON: Well, put it this way: So far, we have not been able to successfully get the eight Christians out. Maybe moral appeal to the religious community would have just that impact. When I went to get Americans out of Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Cuba, Yugoslavia, in each instance, the government did not have diplomatic ties, did not penetrate the religious sector. There were things it just could not do with its normal bureaucracy.

I was blessed with a delegation, again America (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Cuba, and Yugoslavia, using the citizen's approach. Complimentary to our government, never in defiance of or contradictory of our government policy. In this case, we do not have diplomatic ties with the Taliban. We were told two days ago they could not find bin Laden. Now it seems that they are asking him to leave. Those are yet signals of their willingness to -- their religious leadership said, show us evidence.

They did not hurl invectives at us. They did not lead an (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against us is the surest evidence. Our other allies are saying that and President Bush and Colin Powell are doing just that. So the impact of President Bush's coalition building, using restraint and yet patience seems to be paying off.

HEMMER: Reverend, back up just a step here. Who contacted whom: Did you contact the Taliban or did they come to you?

JACKSON: They contacted us through one of their Pakistani contacts here.

HEMMER: Can you can give us more information about how that contact was made?

JACKSON: A number of Pakistani Americans are fearing war in the area. They urge us to go, I said, we couldn't go. We would not know where to start. And so they no doubt contacted their friends and in Pakistan, and their friends in the Taliban.

So yesterday, Mohammed Soheil Shaheem (ph), spokesperson of Taliban embassy in Pakistan, called me and that's where the quote came from. I couldn't pick up the phone all call 1-800-Taliban. They had to make the contact, but if they are positioning themselves in such a way -- to me the value is not on the original contact, it is that contact was made.

On of the things they said was we would like to see the situation resolved any way, deserves the dignity and integrity of all sides. So in one sense, that means that maybe they want thing to happen in a way that saves face of all sides and yet changes the substance. I hope that is case.

HEMMER: And Reverend, take us back to your conversations last night with Colin Powell and again this morning. Tell us what his concerns were for you if indeed you went forward -- secondly if the White House tells you to back off, will you?

JACKSON: His basic position was that he appreciated my contacting him respects him and his position, and that would want me to tell those that contacted me that the position is the same, that is to say, you have the option of releasing bin Laden and his emissaries and having us inspect the camps. All of the continued pressure, economic and ultimately military pressure.

So that is kind of way the conversation went. And I think that the Taliban is feeling this global pressure. The Russians and the Indians and the Pakistanis and all the neighbors, the Saudis cutting ties from them, they are feeling this economic pressure. They cannot live in isolation. They need to join the world coalition and drop terrorism and move to becoming a member of family of nations.

HEMMER: And again Reverend, on the second point I was asking you just before, I want to clarify this and get your response because in addition to this senior administration officials telling CNN, quote, our fear is a visit by you could do potential damage to some of the pieces we have so carefully put in place here. Again the question: If the White House tells you not to go, will you follow orders?

JACKSON: But the White House would never suggest that a delegation of religious leaders not go to Pakistan. We have a right to go there if we choose to go there to appeal for a release of Christians. They wouldn't be against that. We have a right to appeal to the Taliban to please give up bin Laden and give up his emissaries that we might move towards world accord, as opposed to world peace. So they have the not done that and I suspect they would not.

HEMMER: Keep us posted, Reverend Jesse Jackson by telephone in Washington, D.C.


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