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Washington: Asking bin Laden to leave is not enough

French President Jacques Chirac:
Osama bin Laden is seen on magazine covers in Islamabad, Pakistan  

(CNN) -- The White House rejected on Thursday a recommendation from Afghanistan's Grand Islamic Council that the country's ruling Taliban ask suspected terrorist ringleader Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan.

"It does not meet America's requirements," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. "It's time for action, not words. The president has demanded that key figures of the al Qaeda terrorist organization, including Osama bin Laden, be turned over to responsible authorities and for the Taliban to close terrorist camps in Afghanistan. The United States stands by those demands." (Full story)

The Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was said to be considering the council's recommendation. Observers inside Afghanistan said that Washington's reaction would likely determine whether or not Omar accepts it, saying that if Washington slammed the door, Omar would likely reject it.

Meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, the council members rejected the U.S. demand, delivered by Pakistan, that bin Laden be handed over to stand trial for the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. (Statement)

They also warned the United States that if it attacks, the Taliban would declare a jihad, or holy war against the United States.

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In addition, the clerics expressed grief over the attacks, and asked the United States to be patient and continue with its investigation. The statement also asked the Islamic Conference to investigate the terror attacks.

The announcement came as President Bush prepared to address Congress at 9 p.m. Thursday about the terrorist attacks on the United States. The Army and Air Force have received orders to deploy personnel to the Persian Gulf. (Special reports)

The stock market continued to plunge Thursday, with the Dow down more than 300 points and the NASDAQ index down near 50 points by early afternoon. (Full story)

Latest developments

• Describing the economic viability of the U.S. airline industry as an "urgent and critical matter," the Bush administration asked Congress on Thursday to approve a four-point plan to stabilize the airline industry in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks. (Full story)

• The Pentagon has issued deployment orders to Army units, in addition to the dozens of warplanes already ordered to go in the initial buildup of forces in its effort against terrorism. (Full story)

• The Bush administration was on Thursday considering changing the name of its anti-terrorism initiative, which unofficially had been dubbed "Operation Infinite Justice," sources told CNN.

• The FBI said Thursday that federal agents had arrested Nabil al-Marabh, a Boston cabdriver who has been linked to an associate of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, in connection with the attacks. Officials earlier searched a residence in Detroit looking for al-Marabh, but he was picked up outside Chicago, officials said. (Full story)

• The Afghan opposition Northern Alliance said on Thursday that supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has gone into hiding. The alliance said it learned of this development by intercepting radio transmissions. (Profile)

• Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said Thursday that Iraq would be willing to help the United States in the wake of last week's attacks on New York and Washington, but only "if the Americans asked" and "for the American people and not the American government." (Full story)

• British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in New York, where he planned to visit a Midtown police precinct and fire house to pay tribute to the people there. Blair then planned to attend a church service at nearby St. Thomas Church, in memory of the hundreds of British citizens who died in the attacks. (Full story)

• A 38-member delegation from the U.S. Senate arrived in New York on Thursday to view the destruction in lower Manhattan. (Full story)

• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller visited the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The passengers aboard Flight 93 are believed to have fought with the hijackers and forced a crash before reaching its target. (Chronology)

• The Justice Department reported 115 people were in federal custody and that authorities are searching for more than 190 others they want to question in the investigation of the attacks. (Full story)

• In perhaps the most cooperative broadcasting effort ever, at least 27 television networks and dozens of radio stations will air the live special "America: A Tribute to Heroes" Friday. The show is a star-studded benefit for victims of last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. (Special reports)

• Rescue and recovery efforts continue at New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, although hopes of finding survivors have drastically dwindled. More than 5,500 people are feared dead in the attacks.

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