Bin Laden 'must not face death penalty'

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The Independent Online

The Government said yesterday it would hand over Osama bin Laden for trial in the United States only if he would not face the death penalty.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, saidAmerica was the correct location for any trial of the prime suspect in the September 11 bombings, if he was captured by British troops.

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain does not extradite suspects to countries that use the death penalty unless assurances are secured that they will not face execution.

"I believe that it would be important to respect the international legislation relevant to those circumstances," Mr Hoon told BBC Television. He restated Britain's readiness to provide troops for an international peace-keeping force in Afghanistan but played down reports that 10,000 UK troops might be involved in a 50,000-strong force, saying: "I don't believe that any one country will have such a large number."

The impending announcement of an international force comes as the Northern Alliance commander, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, said he would co-operate with the proposed interim administration in Kabul despite his unhappiness at the low number of "ministries'' his Junbish-I-Mill faction received at the Bonn talks.

Yesterday, the Uzbek warlord told US officials he would not jeopardise the administration, although he maintains that Uzbeks are not fairly represented on it.

General Dostum said it was a "humiliation" that he had been given the agriculture, mining and industry portfolios instead of the foreign ministry he had demanded.