Afghan's ruling Taliban militia tonight decided to ask Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan. The decision has surprised western diplomats and is acknowledged as a move in the right direction - albeit, not far enough.
compiled by Selwyn Manning
Reports are emerging tonight that a meeting of Afghanistan's senior Islamic clerics have issued an edict recommending Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, should be persuaded to leave Afghanistan.
The decision has yet to be upheld by the Taliban's supreme spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, who has provided bin Laden shelter.
The Council of Clerics iissued a statement saying: "To avoid the current tumult... and also future similar suspicions, the high council of the honorable ulema (clerics) recommends to the Islamic Emirate (of Afghanistan) to persuade Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan whenever possible."
The verdict said bin Laden should find another place to live. The statement was issued by the Taliban's Information Ministry.
The verdict did not comply with United States demands, that bin Laden be handed over.
United States president George W Bush had earlier this week insisted that he wanted bin Laden "Dead or alive". Bush's comments have continued to become more emotive and righteous as this week has progressed. He has referred to those responsible for last week's terrorist attacks on the USA as "evil doers" and "evil men". Such rhetoric, aligned to readings from Ezekial, or perhaps crudely from a Pulp Fiction script, would hardly have conjurred a just and necessary response from a deeply religious order [irrespective of their means] as the Taliban.
The Taliban's decision, buys however valuable time as the war-clock continues to tick.
Tonight, it remains unclear whether bin Laden will leave. As New Zealand foreign minister Phil Goff said on hearing the news, there is only one other country in the world that could take bin Laden, and that is Iraq. And for any nation to take bin Laden in, would inevitably draw fire from the United States military that is building up in and around the Persian Gulf and Mediterranian Sea in numbers larger than previously seen.
The Taliban cleric's edict warned: that Muslims should launch a holy war, or jihad, if the United States and/or NATO waged a war against the Taliban's fighters, many armed with little more than AK47 rifles.
The edict said: "If infidels invade an Islamic country and that country does not have the ability to defend itself, jihad becomes a definite obligation of all the world's Muslims," it said.
The edict also said anyone helping the United States in an attack on Afghanistan would face a holy war. The threat was targetted directly at Afghanistan's neighbour Pakistan. Pakistan has offered full support for US military action.
"If in the time of an American attack, any Muslims, be they Afghans or non-Afghans, cooperate with the infidels, accomplices or spy, that person also is punishable to death like the foreign invaders," it said.