U.S. urges Taliban again to expel bin Laden
Web posted at: 4:04 p.m. EDT (1604 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States again pushed the ruling Islamic Taliban faction in Afghanistan on Thursday to expel accused Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, an act that would boost its standing in the West.
"We have made very clear that his fatwa (edict) against Americans is unacceptable -- and do not believe that anyone should give him safe haven," U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia.
U.S. officials, Saudi opposition sources and Arab journalists told CNN's Peter Bergen that there is "friction" between bin Laden and his Taliban protectors -- but denied there was any violent falling out as reported in Thursday's editions of The New York Times newspaper.
Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, the Taliban's New York representative, told CNN that due to the concerns of some countries that bin Laden was using Afghanistan to launch terrorist operations, the Taliban had confiscated all his means of communications, including his satellite telephones, in early February.
The Taliban also told bin Laden that while he could remain in Afghanistan, he could not use "Afghan soil for military operations," Mujahid said.
U.S. waiting for proof
"We have heard the Taliban say the right things before, but whether they are doing the right things remains to be seen. The proof will be if he is expelled," a senior U.S. administration official said in Washington.
Mujahid said bin Laden decided to leave the area controlled by the Taliban on February 10. The Taliban provided him with 10 bodyguards to "protect and supervise him."
Mujahid vehemently denied The New York times report of a fight between bin Laden's bodyguards and Taliban fighters.
"This is not true and I was not informed in this regard," he said. A U.S. official contacted by CNN also denied the report of a violent falling-out.
A Pakistani journalist and Saudi dissident who closely follows bin Laden and the Taliban cast doubt on the story of the alleged fight between the forces of the Taliban and bin Laden.
Abdel Bari Atwan, who edits the London-based "Al Quds Al Arabi" newspaper, said the leader of the Taliban -- Mullah Mohammed Omar -- snubbed bin Laden in early February, and bin Laden was "furious."
A senior U.S. official hopes the Taliban will recognize it is in its interest to stop providing refuge for the suspected terrorist indicted as the alleged mastermind of the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania last August that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
U.S. officials have told the Taliban to expel Bin Laden so he can be brought to justice.
But as recently as two weeks ago, the Taliban said bin Laden was no longer in territory under its control. After meeting with a senior State Department official on February 17, Mujahid told reporters: "He (bin Laden) has left the area," of his own accord.
U.N. announces new round of Afghan peace talks
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