September 21, 2001 08:24 AM

o Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban refused on Friday to hand over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden without evidence that he was involved in last week’s attacks on America, despite an ultimatum Thursday night from President Bush. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleicher responded by saying Bush’s demand is not open for negotiation and warned the Taliban that “we will defeat you” if they refuse to turn over bin Laden. o Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, said turning over bin Laden would be an “insult to Islam.” o The Taliban also announced that if America strikes Afghanistan, a “holy war” (“jihad”) would result. o In his speech Thursday night, President Bush announced that Penn. Gov. Tom Ridge would head the country’s “Office of Homeland Security.” In that position, Ridge will oversee the country’s plan to safeguard against terrorism. o U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said that America was deploying military forces to help fight a new war on terrorism, but he cautioned that the conflict would be “a marathon, not a sprint.” o Rumsfeld confirmed that he had signed an order to move U.S. forces in response to Sept. 11’s devastating attack on America. Although the secretary declined to identify locations of the troops, Reuters cited defense officials as saying that they were in and near the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. o Said Rumsfeld of what is ahead: “It will certainly require the patience of all of us. It also will require a lot of international support, and fortunately that’s coming.” He continued, “What we’re engaged in is something that is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia, the kinds of things that people think of when they use the word ‘war,’ ‘campaign’ or ‘conflict.’ ” o Earlier on Thursday, Islamic clerics urged terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden to voluntarily leave Afghanistan, where he and his followers have had sanctuary for five years, the Taliban news agency said. o The statement carried by the Bakhtar news agency came at the end of a two-day meeting by hundreds of Islamic clerics who were called to Kabul by the Taliban government to decide about U.S. demands to hand over the Saudi-born suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. o The clerics’ statement set no deadline for bin Laden to accept or reject the call, and it was unclear whether this would be enough to dissuade President Bush from launching massive military strikes against the impoverished Central Asian nation of Afghanistan.

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