Jesse Jackson Cool on Meeting Taliban
By Broward Liston
Friday September 28 4:41 PM ET
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said on Friday he was leaning against traveling to Afghanistan for discussions with the Taliban about Osama bin Laden, but he had made no final decision.
``I'm not inclined to go but it does deserve study,'' he told reporters. ``A delegation in the present environment may not achieve the desired results.''
The Taliban, accused by the United States of harboring bin Laden, believed to be the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York, invited Jackson to Kabul in a fax sent to him by its embassy in Pakistan.
There has been some confusion over which side initiated the contact, with the Taliban saying Jackson first made the offer.
The fax said Jackson could meet high-ranking officials of the Islamic leadership, according to a copy sent to Reuters by a Jackson aide.
``In the current critical situation there is more need for prudence, sagacity and patience to solve issues between Afghanistan and America through peaceful means and we welcome your mediation to meet high-ranking Afghan government officials in Afghanistan,'' it said, adding that talks could lead to a sustainable solution.
The United States has threatened to punish any country believed to be helping bin Laden and has urged the Taliban to hand him over. The U.S. military has mobilized for possible retaliatory action.
JACKSON PRAISES BUSH
Jackson, speaking at a news conference at Lake Buena Vista, Florida, where he was attending a conference of the National Black MBA Association, praised President Bush for giving the Taliban the option of cooperating.
``They've been given a chance to take place at the world court rather than world war,'' Jackson said. He hoped ``the Taliban will be convinced in seeing there's a future in joining the global alliance against terrorism.''
As for long-term peace in the region, Jackson said, ``The global war against terrorism must also be a global war against poverty.''
Jackson said he was discouraged by the fact that a delegation of Pakistan Muslim clerics on a mission to Kabul had failed to persuade the Taliban to hand over bin Laden.
The civil rights leader, who is also a Christian preacher, expressed concern the Taliban had said nothing about the fate of eight Christian aid workers -- two Americans, four Germans and two Australians -- being held in jail in Kabul.
He also said there were issues to be negotiated before the Taliban was likely to hand over Saudi-born bin Laden.
``Where will the suspects go, who will hold them, what country will hold them, who will be the judge and who will be the jury,'' he said.
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