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Published: Thursday, 12/6/2001

Taliban agrees to surrender kandahar


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar agreed Thursday to surrender his last major bastion Kandahar to tribal forces and put himself under the protection of tribal leaders, Afghanistan's interim leader and a Taliban official said.

Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed head of a new interim government, told CNN that Taliban fighters would be allowed to disband and return to their homes. He said Omar would also be afforded protection if he promised to ``renounce terrorism.''

Karzai said it would take two or three days to work out the transfer of power. ``It will be done in a slow and orderly manner.''

Any amnesty, Karzai told CNN, would apply only to ``common Taliban'' fighters, not to Omar. If Omar does not condemn terrorism, ``he would not be safe,'' Karzai said.

There will be no safe passage for those linked to terrorism, Karzai said. ``They must leave my country,'' he said. ``They are criminals.''

Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, said Taliban fighters would begin handing over their weapons to a local Pashtun leader, Mullah Naqibullah, starting Friday.

Earlier, a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, could not confirm that such a deal had been struck. The official said discussions between Taliban and anti-Taliban commanders were ongoing.

``We don't have information that would indicate that Mullah Omar has agreed to anything like this,'' the official said. ``It's not there yet.''

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