US refuses to confirm Taliban warning, but says bin Laden must be ejected
WASHINGTON, June 29 (AFP) - The United States on Friday refused to confirm reports that it had told the Taliban it would be held responsible if terror suspect Osama bin Laden attacks US targets, but called on the militia to expel the Saudi cleric.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker refused to elaborate on the reports by the Afghan Islamic Press, but repeated US calls for the Taliban to hand over bin Laden, who Washington says carried out the bombings of two US embassies in Africa in 1998.
Reeker said the outgoing US ambassador to Islamabad William Milam met the Taliban's envoy Abdul Salam Zaeef in the Pakistani capital on Friday.
Milam passed on Washington's "continuing concern about the Taliban's harboring of the terror network of Osama bin Laden and of other terrorist organizations," Reeker said.
"As we've done before, he emphasized the seriousness of our concerns in light of recent threats and the need for the Taliban to deal with this issue."
Reeker said that Milam had emphasised that the Taliban must comply with US resolutions which call for the extradition of bin Laden.
The AIP earlier quoted Zaeef as saying : "the ambassador said the US will hold the Taliban regime responsible if Osama launched attacks against the United States."
Zaeef reportedly told Milam: "We do not consider the US as our enemy, therefore, we cannot allow its opponents to use our territory against the United States."
Bin Laden lives in Afghanistan as a "guest" of Taliban rulers, who despite tough UN sanctions have refused to extradite him to stand trial in the US on terrorism charges.
The United States holds the wealthy Saudi dissident responsible for the 1998 bombings of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people.
"I have given him full assurances that we will not allow Osama or any other person to use our soil against the United States or any other country," Zaeef said.
The Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) reported last week that bin Laden's supporters were planning terror attacks on US and Israeli interests worldwide.
The US has placed its forces in the Gulf on maximum alert for fear of attacks on the fifth anniversary of the 1996 bombing of a US military base at Dhahran in Saudi Arabia this week.
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