US says no movement seen on Bin Laden issue

WASHINGTON, Apr 28, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United States has not seen any movement in persuading the Taleban to eject Saudi-exile Osama bin Laden from sanctuary in Afghanistan to face charges related to two U.S. embassy bombings, a State Department official said on Thursday.

The United States has been pressuring Pakistan to use its relationship with the Taleban rulers of neighboring Afghanistan to hand over bin Laden to answer charges he masterminded the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa which killed more than 200 people.

Bin Laden has denied the U.S. charges and the Taleban has refused to expel him, saying he is a guest.

"We would hope very much that Pakistan's considerable influence with the Taleban could operate effectively to help bring him (bin Laden) to trial, which is what we have been asking for a long period of time," Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said.


Asked whether there had been any movement on that front, Pickering replied: "Unfortunately no."

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the only countries which recognize the Taleban government.

Earlier Thursday, a spokesman for the military-led government in Pakistan said the South Asian country would prefer the United States talk directly with the Taleban on the bin Laden matter.

"We urge the U.S. government to directly negotiate with the Taleban government of Afghanistan because this is a bilateral issue," Pakistan's Information and Media Development Adviser Javed Jabbar said in Karachi.

The UN Security Council has imposed financial and airline sanctions on the Taleban and threatened additional sanctions if bin Laden is not surrendered.

"Just a few weeks ago, the Security Council prefigured further action if bin Laden is not brought to account," Pickering said in a speech at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Current sanctions on the Taleban have had an effect but "unfortunately not enough effect to bring about the results which the international community is seeking, which is to end terrorism and bring Osama bin Laden and others who are guilty of such steps to trial," he said.

The nature of the additional proposed sanctions was still being discussed, Pickering said. "I can't give you a clear view yet because I think that's still under discussion and before we begin to discuss that we want to be sure that they would have support," he added.


Pickering warned that Afghanistan was in danger of becoming even more isolated from the international community. "The isolation of Afghanistan will only increase unless steps are taken now to address the international community's concerns," he said.

Separately, a Yugoslav government newspaper on Thursday said bin Laden was in Kosovo preparing to launch attacks in southern Serbia.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity dismissed the report in the Borba daily, saying: "It's totally without foundation. It is baseless." The United States believes bin Laden is still in Afghanistan.

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