Mon, Nov 05, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Taliban had agreed to surrender suspect


Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said on Saturday the Taliban had twice agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden to the kingdom but reneged after the US bombed Afghanistan in 1998.

Prince Turki also told the Middle East Broadcasting Center in an interview that he believed that Saudi-born bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11 suicide attacks, saying those who felt otherwise were "turning a blind eye to the facts."

The prince, who served as intelligence chief for 24 years until August, said spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar pledged at a meeting in June 1998 to turn bin Laden over. Taliban envoy Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, now the movement's foreign minister, had reiterated that vow during a visit to Saudi Arabia in July 1998.

"I asked Mullah Omar when I met with him and he agreed. He said: `We are ready,'" Prince Turki said of the June meeting, when he had first asked the Taliban to surrender bin Laden.

But that changed three months later, after the US had carried out air strikes on Afghanistan in response to bomb attacks in August 1998 on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"In September I found Mullah Omar with a complete change. He even used abusive words against the [Saudi] kingdom ... so I interrupted the meeting," he said.

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