Pakistani clerics cancel planned visit to Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

Disappointed by the rigid stands of the Taliban and the United States, Muslim clerics have canceled a planned visit to Afghanistan aimed at resolving the crisis over Osama bin Laden, spokesman of an Islamic party said Wednesday.

Leaders of four major pro­Taliban Islamic parties planned to travel to the militia's headquarters in southern city of Kandahar this week to meet its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, according to Ameerul Azeem, a spokesman of the Jamaat­e­Islami, or Islamic Party.

However, the trip was called off because the clerics see no chance of a breakthrough, Azeem told The Associated Press by telephone from Lahore.

On Friday, a similar delegation of Pakistani Islamic clerics and a senior intelligence officer returned from Kandahar empty­handed after failing to convince Omar to soften his stand on bin Laden.

The United States believes bin Laden was responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon. More than 6,000 people are believed to have been killed.

Bin Laden has lived in Afghanistan since 1996, and the Taliban refuse to hand him over. Bin Laden is also wanted by the United States in the 1998 bombing of its two embassies in East Africa tat killed at least 224 people.

Pakistani clerics fear an US attack on Afghanistan, which many religious parties admire as a model Islamic state.

Pakistan's Muslim parties have been angered by their government's decision to side with the United States in its war against terrorism and have been holding nationwide rallies in an attempt to force the leadership to change its decision.

The delegation was to have been comprised of Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of the 35 alliance of Islamic and militant groups; the Afghan Defense Council; Maulana Fazal­ur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema­e­Islam; Qazi Hussain Ahmed of the Jamaat­e­Islami; and Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani of the Jamiat Ulema­e­Islam.