- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

Afghanistan's interim leader said yesterday his administration would turn over Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to the United States or an international tribunal if they are captured and that U.S. forces will be allowed to stay in the country until all terrorists have been wiped out.
Hamid Karzai, who conducted his first Cabinet meeting yesterday on the first full day of his six-month term in office, also urged Washington and the international community to commit resources for rebuilding Afghanistan that could "run into billions" of dollars.
Although he said he didn't have "precise information" where Mullah Omar was, Mr. Karzai pledged to bring him to justice if he is arrested in Afghanistan.
"We have a national case against him; he is responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent Afghans, for the destruction of our country and for bringing into Afghanistan terrorists," Mr. Karzai said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"But if there is a case against him internationally, and if he's required internationally an international court of justice, or with the United States for the act of terror that has been committed in America we will deliver him there, too. He has no protection whatsoever," the Afghan leader said.
Asked how his administration would treat bin Laden in case he is captured by Afghan forces, Mr. Karzai said, "We'll deal with him exactly in the same way."
"He, too, is responsible for lots of suffering in Afghanistan. He was a close associate of Mullah Omar. The two of them together committed murder and the destruction of the Afghan land and people. There is no way that he can go unpunished.
"If we arrest him, we will deliver him to international justice We will deliver him to the United States," Mr. Karzai said.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, without citing any specific evidence, said during a visit to China on Saturday that bin Laden probably had been killed in U.S. air attacks on his stronghold of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai said he had "no information about that" but that if bin Laden "has been killed, then it's good news for the people all over the world to know that a menace in the name of terrorism in the form of that person is no longer there." He also said he was verifying information received two days before about Mullah Omar's "whereabouts."
A suspected member of bin Laden's al Qaeda network was arrested in Yemen on Thursday as part of a crackdown on the terrorist organization, said security sources quoted yesterday by Agence France-Presse. The man's name was not disclosed, but police identified him as "a member of the Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda."
Yemen has stepped up its efforts to arrest militants suspected of links with bin Laden to avoid becoming a target in the U.S.-led war on terrorism as it expands beyond Afghanistan.
Bin Laden, who is wanted for the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, also is thought by the U.S. government to have been behind the October 2000 explosion on the USS Cole in Aden, in southern Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.
In Kabul, the Afghan capital, Mr. Karzai and his 29 ministers, two of whom are women, conducted a 21/2-hour meeting yesterday that was dominated by security issues.
In the CNN interview, Mr. Karzai vowed to eradicate terrorism from his country, noting that the U.S. forces currently in Afghanistan could remain there after multinational peacekeeping troops are deployed.
"The U.S. forces are not part of the peacekeeping forces, but as long as there are these terrorist elements' hide-outs in Afghanistan, and as long as we think there are remnants of terrorists in Afghanistan, those forces can stay and fight terrorism.
"We have a commitment to free our country and the rest of the world from this scourge of terrorism, and we will see to it that that is completed by whatever means," he said.
The U.N.-mandated international security force spearheaded by a contingent of 100 British Royal Marines would remain on the ground until law and order were restored across the country, he added.
The Pashtun royalist leader, who was sworn in Saturday, pleaded to the international community, and the United States in particular, to help rebuild his country.
"We are a people in need of reconstruction in all walks of life," he said. "And naturally, the country needs to be helped, and to be helped strongly by the international community and, on top of that, by your own country, the United States.
"It should run into billions, but we hope we'll get money for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. And we hope that we will not be left alone and this country would receive the help that it deserves," Mr. Karzai said.
On the same CNN program, two senators said the United States couldn't afford Afghan reconstruction by itself and would have to share the financial burden with allies and other countries.
"I don't think that the United States is going to be in a position to carry this thing," said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. "So we have huge expenses that we are going to have to plan for right now, and they are going to be competing for those dollars."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that although "every nation in the world has a stake in what happens to Afghanistan," the United States has a "special obligation."
"I have long been a believer in burden sharing, and if ever there was a case for it, it was this," she said.

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