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America's New War: Decision Issued by Grand Islamic Council

Aired September 20, 2001 - 06:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, let's get back to the part of the world where this story is now developing the quickest right now.

Let's go back now to Pakistan where we have finally gotten a hold of our Nic Robertson who has been monitoring this decision that's been issued now by the Grand Islamic Council in Afghanistan.

Nic joins us now live. He is in Quetta, Pakistan right now.

Nic, what have you heard?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, I think it has to be said here, now CNN has been forced to leave Afghanistan, it is much harder to get hard, accurate information and that has been a trouble for all news agencies outside of Afghanistan trying to read exactly what's going on inside. Our staff who've remained behind there for us right now trying to get hard, accurate information about exactly what the clerics have announced following that meeting. They've told me that the clerics are still at this moment still announcing their facts, were still giving the details of the outcome of all those talks.

We do know that the clerics had two sessions yesterday, a four- hour session in the morning and a three-hour session in the afternoon and had pretty much the same today, about a four-hour session in the morning. Following that, they took a two-hour break before giving their announcements, which are going on right now.

What we do know, Leon, is that they were considering whether or not to extradite Osama bin Laden, and we do know that most of the speeches from those clerics inside that meeting was opposed to the extradition of Osama bin Laden. Beyond that, at this moment we have very few hard details. Certainly there are rumors speculating about the possibility of an extradition of Osama bin Laden. What we do know on that issue is that the Taliban have all along said on this issue that there should be proof -- that United States should provide proof to the government of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden was involved.

These are the hard facts that we know, Leon, and just as soon as those clerics wrap up giving that address, we do hope to have more details and more information which certainly should clarify a lot of the issues at the moment. Leon. HARRIS: Well, Nic, I know I have you at somewhat of a disadvantage because you aren't there right now, but let me ask you, if I can, quickly about a couple of things. No. 1, as I understand it, Mullah Omar who is the actual leader of the Taliban, he still has the final say over what happens here. Doesn't this Islamic council just make this recommendation and then it is still up to the Mullah Omar who has said in the past that he does not want to do anything on this issue, does not want to force Osama bin Laden to leave the country. Doesn't he still have the final say on this?

ROBERTSON: He does. Certainly the indications are in his address that was read out to the religious clerics before they sat down for their meeting had been in very much in the same tone as what Mullah Omar what had been saying all along and that is that this wasn't about Osama bin Laden, that this was an issue of Islam being demonized so making it a religious issue not an issue of terrorism. And certainly that had been the position and that's what he said to the -- to the clerics who were gathered there.

So that's what we would -- that is the line of thinking we would be expecting him to take at this time, Leon. There's been no contradictory information to that view at this time. That's probably the best information we have at the moment, Leon.

HARRIS: All right. And, Nic, one final thing. I know this again is tough for you to figure out if you have not had a chance to talk to our people who are still behind in Afghanistan as you have left that country, you're now in Pakistan. But we also hear that the Afakwa (ph), that is this pronouncement that has been issued by this religious council, is stating that a jihad or holy war should be waged against the U.S. if any kind of strike occurs. Do you know that to be true?

ROBERTSON: That is certainly one of the issues we understood they were debating. If Afghanistan was attacked by the United States then one of the issues was would they declare a jihad, a holy war against the United States? Again, we'll hope to have hard information on that shortly but that was certainly one of the issues and that would really, as far as the followers of the Taliban not only in Afghanistan but those who follow their beliefs outside of Afghanistan, perhaps more worryingly would therefore be obliged to take up this holy war against the United States. It would certainly give the possibility of spreading the conflict beyond the borders of Afghanistan if that -- if that were to be the case.

HARRIS: Nic Robertson, we sure do appreciate the hustle on this story. We also appreciate the fact that you are safe and sound that since you have been forced to leave Afghanistan. Nic Robertson reporting live from Pakistan, be safe, we'll talk with you later on.

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