Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday the United States would not stand for any arrangement that allowed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to remain free and "live in dignity" in the region.
Asked about reports of a deal between Omar and Afghan opposition forces to surrender the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Rumsfeld said the United States has made clear to opposition forces "our very strong view on this."
"Our cooperation and assistance with those people would clearly take a turn south if something were to be done in respect to the senior people in that situation that is inconsistent with what I have said," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld said the United States has been providing opposition leaders in the south with much assistance, including bombing Taliban forces and supplying weapons, advisers and special forces troops to assist the fight against the Taliban.
"To the extent that our goals are frustrated and opposed, we would prefer to work with other people," Rumsfeld said.
Omar agreed Thursday to surrender Kandahar to tribal forces and put himself under the protection of tribal leaders. Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed head of a new interim government, told CNN that Omar could be afforded protection, but only if he promised to "renounce terrorism."
The White House had no immediate reaction on the turnover of Kandahar.
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