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Iranian paper: Taliban ruler doesn't expect U.S. attack

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, told an Iranian newspaper that he does not expect the United States to attack Afghanistan and dismissed the idea of reinstating the deposed Afghan king.

Omar said he did not support the killing of innocent people -- a reference to this month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington -- "even if Jihad (holy war) has been declared against the enemies of Islam."

Omar gave the rare interview to Mohsen Mondegari of Entekhab, a Iranian daily newspaper. The interview transcript was also published Saturday in Iran News, a Tehran-based English language newspaper.

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U.S. officials have accused Afghanistan of harboring terrorists. They say Osama bin Laden, who is the "prime suspect" in the recent terrorist attacks, is living there.

The Bush administration has worked to forge an international coalition designed, among other things, to pressure the Taliban into handing over bin Laden. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with the Afghan government this week, while Pakistan -- the lone remaining country with official ties to the Taliban -- has publicly aligned itself with the United States and against the Taliban.

But Omar said he does not think the United States, or its allies, would attack Afghanistan if it does not cede to its demands.

"We do not expect so, because they have no reason to attack us," Omar said.

Omar also addressed recent moves to try to reinstate the deposed Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who was overthrown nearly 30 years ago.

"(Zahir Shah) is physically too weak and is not capable," Omar said in the interview. "Also, Afghanistan is not faced with a leadership vacuum."

The former monarch issued a statement Friday claiming Taliban opponents have created a Supreme Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan, as well as "military structure with the participation of various resistance commanders and tribal elders and some professional army officers."

The statement noted that this military "will promptly begin its activities inside Afghanistan" and will "lay the foundation for a national security force."

The announcement came after the former king met with representatives of the Northern Alliance, a group currently fighting the Taliban and in control of much of northeastern Afghanistan. Mohammed Zahir Shah also met earlier this week with representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Italy.

The 86-year-old former monarch has lived in Rome since his nephew helped overthrow him in a 1973 coup. A U.N. envoy who met with him last weekend said the former king does not want to return to power in Afghanistan, but believes he could play a role in forming a post-Taliban transitional government.


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