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America's New War: Taliban Confirms Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan

Aired September 24, 2001 - 06:01   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: We have now the -- we're going to begin this hour with the latest developments in America's New War for you right now.

There is a key meeting in Islamabad underway this morning, U.S. officials there are outlining the war against terrorism for Pakistan's leaders and they are detailing the U.S.' request for cooperation. Later, the U.S. delegation is set to sign papers lifting 1998 sanctions against Pakistan, which were assessed for nuclear testing there.

There's also a joint news conference scheduled in Islamabad for later this hour. We plan to carry that live for you right here.

President Bush hopes to put a financial squeeze on terrorists today. He's going to identify terrorist groups around the world and then he will sign an executive order freezing their assets in the U.S.

U.S. airlines are taking yet another step to tighten security. The FAA is now requiring detailed employment histories for all airport workers with badge access to restricted areas. The FAA is also requiring airlines to check their employee list against the FBI's watch list of suspected terrorists.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: So let's go to Islamabad now for more on a critical meeting today between high level U.S. delegations and Pakistan's leaders. That meeting going on right now.

CNN's Tom Mintier joins us from Islamabad.

Tom, while we wait to hear from the U.S. delegation and the Pakistanis, I understand the Taliban is going to be holding a news conference.

TOM MINTIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, that news conference has just finished, Carol, and the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan says he doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is but he is confident that he is still in Afghanistan. We also heard from the Taliban ambassador that the request that Osama bin Laden leave Afghanistan was agreed to by Mullah Omar and the only problem now is they can't seem to find Osama bin Laden to give him that request that he leave Afghanistan. So as of right now they say, as everyone else is saying, they simply don't know where Osama bin Laden is. On this delegation from the United States, it is a delegation from the Pentagon. They are in Islamabad ready to start the meetings between the Pakistani officials. We will probably not know the details of those meetings -- very, very secret meetings outlining probably what the planning is of the United States should there be a military strike against Afghanistan.

This meeting has been awaited eagerly by Pakistani officials. They're hoping that they'll receive, as the Secretary of State talked about yesterday, some concrete evidence, maybe a white paper, a briefing which U.S. officials may provide to the Pakistan government on exactly what evidence they do have that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington. So those meetings are underway. There will probably be more people coming from Washington, possibly from the State Department, in the next few days.

As you said, there is going to be an agreement basically on debt restructuring that's going to be within the next hour, hour and a half here in Islamabad. The U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain will be at this signing ceremony as long -- as well as the Finance Minister here. So we'll possibly hear more reaction to the lifting of sanctions by the United States -- Carol.

LIN: Tom, let me take you back to the Taliban news conference that you just covered. Tell me, what exactly happened at that moment when the Taliban was saying that they don't know where Osama bin Laden is. You know that there isn't a single government official in the United States that believes that statement so how did the Taliban respond to what U.S. officials are saying is an untruth?

MINTIER: Well, they're saying they simply don't know and that's a rather difficult response to, you know, what the United States is saying they don't know where he is. What they did say was that Mullah Omar agreed to the recommendations of the clerics. We're also getting word out of Kabul that the Taliban say that they have mobilized 300,000 troops with inside Afghanistan. So we're getting dribs and drabs of information but the information we're getting from the Taliban Embassy here in Pakistan is interesting that now they have confirmed that they simply don't know where Osama bin Laden is as incredible as that sounds.

LIN: Well, did they say that they were going to be looking for him? And if they find him, will they turn him over?

MINTIER: Well, I don't think that's even a remote possibility. What they're trying to deliver to him is basically the notification from Mullah Omar that he agrees with the clerics that it would be in the best interest of Afghanistan if he no longer stays there. So I think that's only on square one. What you're talking about handing over is on square 10 and I don't the Taliban is anywhere close to that.

LIN: Good perspective. Thank you very much, Tom Mintier, and we'll get back to you as soon as we hear and as soon as you hear from the U.S. delegation and the Pakistanis on their meeting today.

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