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Thursday September 20 5:38 AM ET Bin Laden Ready for Trial if Proof Given - Taliban

Bin Laden Ready for Trial if Proof Given - Taliban

By Tom Heneghan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) is ready to stand trial on suspicion of attacks against the United States if Washington provides the evidence, the Taliban's deputy ambassador in Islamabad said on Thursday.

Suhail Shaheen told Reuters that the Afghan-based bin Laden, named by Washington as the prime suspect in last week's bombings in the United States, could be tried in Kabul or in another Muslim country.

``If there's evidence, he is ready for a trial,'' Shaheen said. ``He said 'I am not involved, I am a guest (in Afghanistan (news - web sites)). If they have evidence, I am ready'.''

They envoy spoke at his embassy in Islamabad shortly before senior Afghan clerics meeting in Kabul issued an edict urging bin Laden to leave Afghanistan whenever possible.

Shaheen said Washington was not providing evidence because its real purpose was to combat Islamic governments, both the hardline system the Taliban have established in Afghanistan and the more moderate system in Pakistan.

``We want to solve the problem with talks, but they say 'no','' he said, stressing that Kabul condemned the stunning attacks that has left an estimated 6,000 people dead or missing in New York and Washington.

``They want to destroy Afghanistan and Pakistan,'' he said. ''Even if Osama is handed over to them, they will find another excuse to destroy both these Islamic nations. When that's over, they will find a third and a fourth (excuse).''

Asked where a trial could be held, Shaheen said a council of Afghan religious leaders would decide the location.

``One option is Kabul,'' he said. ``If America provides the evidence, we would put Osama on trial.''


Up until now, though, the United States seemed unwilling to address the problem the way the Afghan government wanted to solve it, Shaheen said.

``In America, they only want to answer to the emotions of the people,'' he argued. ``They are not using their wisdom and prudence.''

``They say there is no time for talks. They have already decided they will attack Afghanistan.''

But the Afghans had long experience with world powers trying and failing to subjugate their rugged, mountainous country.

``The former Soviet Union told us the same thing, and they were more arrogant than the Americans. It proved that such an attitude is a failure.''

The Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a shaky pro-Moscow government and pulled out in defeat 10 years later, eventually had to sit down and talk with the Afghans.

``If the United States attacks, there will be a time when they will have to talk, too,'' he said.

Shaheen said Washington would have the same problem as Moscow did if it tried to install a government of its choosing.

``That will start another cycle of jihad (holy war),'' he warned. ``And when they are tired, they will have to talk.''

Shaheen, who spoke in English, argued the United States would be flouting its own principles if it attacked Afghanistan to punish it for harboring bin Laden before giving evidence that he had committed any crimes.

``In America or Afghanistan, a person is innocent until he is proven guilty,'' he said. ``You need solid proof and evidence.''

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