by Selwyn Manning
Afghanistan's ruling Taliba has announced this afternoon that a Grand Islamic Council involving 20 of the country's pre-eminent clerics will decide Osama bin Laden's fate.
Bin Laden is the "prime suspect" in last week's terror attacks in the United States.
Taliban-run Radio Shariat broadcast today that the Islamic council, or ulema, would meet to discuss and then decide the issue.
The Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, made the announcement after a Pakistani delegation, led by Lt-General Mahmood Ahmed, chief of the Pakistani Interservices Intelligence, met in Afghanistan to demand that bin Laden be handed to the coalition of nations.
Omar's address acknowledged the Pakistani delegation insisted: "we should try to prevent a US attack."
Pakistan's message was designed to be blunt: "Hand over bin Laden or be hit by a punishing retaliatory strike from a US-led international coalition."
The Islamic council will meet in Kabul within the next 24 hours.
Western news agencies are reporting that even if the Taliban hand over bin Laden, a war may not be averted.
The Taliban has given no indication whether it is willing to dismantle bin Laden's terrorist network, holed up in the northern regions of Afghanistan. Bin Laden's al-Qaida group operates from training camps in several Afghan provinces including eastern Nangarhar, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar.
Meanwhile thousands of Afghani refugees have gathered at the borders of Iran and Pakistan. Pakistan virtually arrested the flow of people by halting the movement of all goods except for food and by keeping throngs of frightened Afghan refugees from entering Pakistan.
Within the lines of helpless and homeless people, are officials of the Taliban, reported to be leaving the country before an attack occurs.Both Pakistan and Iran has increased their respective military presence along the border lines.
The Taliban has closed Afghan's airspace to all international flights, forcing a reported 110 flights a day to take alternative paths over the continent.
This week, Pakistan has worked decisively to re-allign its diplomacy with that of the United States, a former Cold-War ally. This will likely cost Pakistan much if retaliatory strikes do rain down on Afghanistan. All hopes have been left with Pakistan to influence a solution to this crisis. This because Pakistan is one of only three counties to have recognised the Taliban as a legitimate government of the country.
Pakistan today promised "full cooperation" with the US should an assault on Afghanistan begin.
News agencies are reporting that hope has received a boost by Taliban leader Omar's radio announcement that the Islamic council, or ulema, would decide the issue.
Pakistan's delegation head, Lt-General Mahmood Ahmed is believed to have played a part in the creation in the mid-1990s of the Taliban, a devoutly Muslim religious militia that now rules about 95 percent of Afghanistan.