- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jesse Jackson said yesterday that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia has asked him to lead a "peace delegation" to the region.
The former Democratic presidential hopeful said he has not decided whether to accept and remains reluctant to do so.
But he suggested he is open to making the trip if his involvement could prevent the deaths of Afghan civilians during a U.S. military campaign against terrorism.
"We must weigh what this invitation means. We're not going to be precipitous," Mr. Jackson said.
Mr. Jackson also said that if he met Taliban representatives, he would work to secure the release of foreign aid workers detained in Afghanistan on charges of advocating Christianity in the Muslim country.
"If we can do something to encourage them to dismantle those terrorist bases, to choose to hand over the suspects and release the Christians rather than engage in a long bloody war, we'll encourage them to do so.
"The Taliban now has a choice, of either world court or world war."
Mr. Jackson said he spoke with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. According to Mr. Jackson, Mr. Powell repeated the Bush administration position that it will not negotiate with the Taliban but did not urge Mr. Jackson not to go.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer declined to comment.
"I would just reiterate what the president has said, that he will not engage in any negotiations or discussions" with the Taliban, Mr. Fleischer said.
"Either the Taliban government is going to stand alone and take on this world pressure, or they are going to look for some graceful way out," Mr. Jackson said. "I hope that appealing to a peace delegation could be a bridge."
The United States has accused the Taliban of harboring Osama bin Laden, the Saudi multimillionaire suspected of involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Mr. Jackson said he received the invitation to go to Pakistan in a telegram yesterday from Mohammed Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman at the Taliban's embassy in Islamabad.
The hard-line Islamic Taliban movement controls much of Afghanistan, and Pakistan is the only remaining nation that recognizes it as the government of the Central Asian country.
The Bush administration has called bin Laden, harbored by Afghanistan since 1996, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington that left more than 6,500 people presumed dead.
The United States has demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden and the top lieutenants in his al Qaeda terrorist network, and extinguish the terrorist training camps in its country.
"We would like to see this situation resolved in a way that preserves the dignity and integrity of all sides in the interest of avoiding the humanitarian catastrophe that would befall the people of Afghanistan as a result of military strikes," Mr. Jackson quoted the telegram as saying.

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