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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


11Taliban restrictions on Usama bin Laden.

DPB #19
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 1999, 1:20 P.M.

..................... QUESTION: Can we move to Taliban?


QUESTION: The Taliban has cut off radio facilities and telephone facilities for Osama bin Laden. Does the US feel any safer, or is it still nothing less than extradition; or, as the British indicated in Islamabad, just control Laden and we'll be satisfied? What is the US stance?

MR. FOLEY: Our view is what they have announced falls woefully short of that which is required. We're certainly aware of their announcement. It does not address the central issue of concern to the world community and the United States.

We have repeatedly made clear to the Taliban our view that Osama bin Laden should be expelled from Afghanistan immediately to a place where he can be brought to justice for his crimes. He has been indicted in connection with the cold-blooded murder of 263 innocent Kenyans, Tanzanians and Americans.

Let's remember, this is someone who has killed innocent civilians, number one; and number two, who has promised to continue killing innocent civilians. Therefore, he must be brought to justice. And we continue to call on the Taliban to expel him from Afghanistan in such a way that he can be brought to justice.

QUESTION: There's a number of media outlets in South Asia - Pakistan - that are reporting the following -- if you could just comment on them, clarify them - that Rick Inderfurth gave the Taliban an ultimatum and a deadline: that if they do not expel Osama bin Laden, then the United States will act militarily against targets in Afghanistan. Secondly, that position was reiterated during a news conference by White House official Richard Clarke, and even more specifically so -- this ultimatum and this threat. Can you comment on those?

MR. FOLEY: I can't comment on the content of a private diplomatic exchange. You can be certain that Mr. Inderfurth, when he met with a Taliban official in Islamabad, certainly reiterated privately that which I've just stated publicly about our view that bin Laden must be expelled. The particulars of how he articulated that position is not something that I can get into.

But I would note that Secretary Albright, in her recent testimony before the United States Senate, stated that we - meaning the United States - will not hesitate, where necessary, to use force to respond to or defend against acts of terrorism. She also noted that force is only one element in our strategy.

QUESTION: That's a very general, very ambiguous statement. Was she referring to Afghanistan -- among the things she might have been referring to was Afghanistan, the Taliban?

MR. FOLEY: It was a general statement, but it certainly has application wherever terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians, including Americans, may seek refuge. I don't wish to particularize it because it was a general statement. But I think that the President made it very clear - I think the date was August 20 -- when we launched military strikes in response to the Africa bombings in anticipation of the danger of future terrorist attacks, that we would not allow terrorists sanctuary.

QUESTION: But the fact that you chose to rule that statement in the context of this discussion does particularize it to any reasonable person, it would seem. So can we carry it a little bit further?

MR. FOLEY: I told you I'm not going to get into the details of the private diplomatic exchange. My words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: I didn't ask you to get into the details or private diplomatic exchange. Does the United States perceive that there are targets in Afghanistan which, apart from Osama bin Laden's camps, might meet your definition of terrorist strongholds or -

MR. FOLEY: I have no information in that regard. Certainly, we demonstrated last August that we believe that bin Laden and his camps and infrastructure constituted such targets, if you will. But I'm not aware of other such problems.

QUESTION: When did the Secretary make that --

MR. FOLEY: She testified, I believe, it was last week. I can check that for you. ..................

(The briefing concluded at 2:20 P.M.)