Afghanistan's new leader Hamid Karzai said Sunday in an interview with CNN that his country would hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States if he is captured.
Karzai, who was sworn in as head of the Afghan interim administration Saturday, said his government would be willing to hand over both bin Laden, the chief suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington, and Taliban supreme leader Mohammed Omar to the US or an international court if they are caught.
''He has no protection whatsoever,'' Karzai said of Omar, according to CNN. The exclusive interview with Karzai was the first he has given since becoming leader, the television network said.
Karzai said he did not know the whereabouts of bin Laden, and that it would be good news if he had already died.
As for Omar, Karzai said he obtained information on the location of the Taliban leader two days ago and that the interim government would arrest him if he is found alive.
The chairman of the interim government said that if bin Laden and Omar are captured alive, they would face charges first in Afghanistan of killing a large number of Afghans and then be handed over to face charges of international crimes and the terrorist attacks.
Karzai also said his country is grateful to the U.S. and its allies for helping push the Islamic fundamentalist militia from power, saying the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan was ''very, very valuable.''
He said that U.S. forces are welcome to stay in Afghanistan as long as there are terrorist elements to be rooted out, even though the forces are not expected to participate in an international security force headed by Britain, whose deployment began last week.
The multinational force of up to 5,000 troops will be stationed in the country for six months to support the political transition.
Karzai welcomed the presence of the international security force, saying, ''They should be here with us for as long as it takes.'' He also said Afghanistan is also working to put its own security force in place.
(People's Daily December 24, 2001)