ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In its first high-level meeting with Afghanistan's ruling militia, the Bush administration told the Taliban on Thursday that it must stop supporting terrorists before any serious progress can be made in relations with the United States.
Osama bin Laden, the alleged terrorist mastermind who has been living in Afghanistan under Taliban protection since 1996, was a main focus of the discussions in neighboring Pakistan.
After meeting with two Taliban representatives for slightly more than an hour, Christina B. Rocca, assistant secretary of State for South Asia, said Washington wants Bin Laden extradited on terrorism charges, but "Osama is not the be-all and the end-all. He is only one problem."
Rocca said the Taliban continues to harbor terrorists and that there could be no "serious progress unless their support for terrorists stopped."
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who attended the meeting, said the Taliban wants to settle the issue of Bin Laden, but "we support a solution that can respect religion, dignity and the traditions of Afghanistan."
"We gave Rocca our complete assurance that our soil will not be used against America and that Afghan soil will not be used for any terrorist activity," Zaeef said.
The Taliban has offered to try Bin Laden in Afghanistan or to let him be tried by a panel of three Muslim clerics from Afghanistan and two other Muslim nations.