ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A delegation of Pakistani clerics and the head of the country's spy agency returned from Afghanistan empty-handed Friday after failing to persuade Taliban leaders to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in the West.
The delegation also did not gain freedom for eight foreign relief workers, including two Americans, held in Afghanistan on charges of illegally preaching Christianity, an Afghan government source said.
In Washington, President Bush reiterated his demand that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden to a country that would put him on trial. "There is no negotiations with the Taliban," Bush told reporters Friday before going into a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
"We're in hot pursuit," Bush said of the U.S. effort to kill or capture Bin Laden, whom the president has labeled the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Saudi militant already faces a U.S. indictment in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Jordanian king, who was originally scheduled to visit Washington on Sept. 11, told Bush that Bin Laden's activities are "completely against all the principles that Arabs and Muslims believe in."
"The majority of Arabs and Muslims will band together with our colleagues all over the world to be able to put an end to this horrible scourge of international terrorism, and you'll see a united front," Abdullah said.
In other developments:
* According to the Associated Press, U.S. reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering teams reportedly have been inside Afghanistan for as long as two weeks, in advance of any military effort aimed specifically at capturing Bin Laden. The goal of the U.S. operatives, who are working with British counterparts, is to help chart a course for locating Bin Laden and dismantling the camps that support his Al Qaeda network, the news agency said.
* Emergency relief supplies aimed at heading off a humanitarian disaster in and around Afghanistan will begin to arrive today in the region, U.N. officials reported in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
The aid efforts, expected to cost $584 million, appear focused on two fronts--preparing for up to 1.5 million new refugees expected along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border if war breaks out, and working to deliver food to the millions of internally displaced Afghans who might have to rely on relief to survive the winter.
* For the third Friday in a row, pro-Taliban clerics in mosques across Pakistan decried any U.S. attack on Afghanistan. At Islamabad's Red Mosque, about 3,000 people heard the leader of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan party, Azam Tariq, warn of suicide bombings here if Pakistan helps the United States go after Bin Laden.
"If Americans attack Afghanistan, we will make a pile of corpses of the Americans by tying bombs to our bodies," he warned.
* The Bush administration claimed to be making headway in its effort to dry up the sources of revenue used by Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and other terrorist groups. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said about 20 governments "have taken concrete action either to freeze assets or impose new regulations."
The one-day mission to the Taliban was the second failed bid by Pakistan in less than two weeks to persuade Afghanistan's ruling faction that it will face severe consequences unless Bin Laden and his associates are surrendered.
Pakistan still held out the possibility that it would sponsor another attempt in the coming days to reason with the Taliban, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan insisted Friday that the Pakistani government is not planning to embark on negotiations. He seemed to imply, however, that the nation's religious leaders have leeway to explore various ideas to solve the crisis and that the government would facilitate them.
"We have not defined a mandate; they carry their own message," Khan said of the clerics. "This effort is on behalf of an important segment of the people of Pakistan."
Pakistan is under pressure from the United States to adhere to the Bush administration's insistence that the surrender of Bin Laden is a nonnegotiable demand. Khan said that Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who also led a mission to talk to the Taliban on Sept. 17, has not changed the government's message since then.
"In view of the gravity of the situation, the Afghan leadership should be responsive to what the world is expecting of them," Khan reiterated.
According to the account of the meeting in Kandahar from the Afghan government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar met with Ahmed, director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. About the same time, the Muslim clerics who had traveled with Ahmed met with their counterparts in Afghanistan.