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Taliban: 'Air defenses still intact'



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Bush administration's claim to have destroyed Afghanistan's air defense capability is untrue, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan has said.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said that after three days of U.S.-led airstrikes both the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden were "safe and alive."

He added that the food drops by U.S. cargo aircraft would not buy the support of the Afghan population and warned that the Bush administration was repeating the same mistakes in Afghanistan as those made by the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

"As long as America is shedding the blood of Afghans it will not be beneficial to America," Zaeef told reporters.

"If America is continuing attacks on Afghanistan it will also not be safe."

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The strikes, he said, had caused several civilian casualties but he had no details of numbers or locations.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters damage reports showed that the airstrikes had been so successful further attacks could be undertaken "more or less around the clock as we wish."

'Global bully'

However, Zaeef rejected that assertion saying: "Mr. Bush's claim that they destroyed the defense capability of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is not true.

"American planes are flying very high and the defense system that we have, they are not in the range of what we have," he said, referring to the U.S. as a "global bully."

He also rejected as "a mere lie" claims by the opposition Northern Alliance forces that they had made advances against the Taliban.

Zaeef said no one among Afghanistan's 21 million people supported the Alliance.

Asked about the status of the al Qaeda network, headed by bin Laden, Zaeef said the Taliban did not consider the group to be a terrorist organization.

He said the Taliban had never supported any terrorist activities and said it was up to America to prove that al Qaeda was a terrorist organization.

So far, he said, the Taliban had seen no evidence indicating the group was involved in terrorism.






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