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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Awaits Taliban Decision

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- A week after the terrorist attacks in the United States, Afghanistan gave mixed signals Tuesday over whether it would give up Osama bin Laden.

Some reports said Afghanistan's ruling Taliban may be prepared to hand over the Saudi-born exile under certain conditions, including trial in a neutral Islamic country.

Many Americans, led by President George W. Bush, observed a moment of silence shortly before 9 a.m., a week to the hour after the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center. "May God continue to bless America," he said quietly as he stood by Vice President Dick Cheney on the White House south lawn.

Stocks clawed higher in early trading following a see-saw opening as investors regained some confidence and prowled for bargains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.35 percent, after a 7.5 percent drop Monday.

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said Bush was considering direct financial aid to help U.S. airlines reeling from cancellations and layoffs.

After airline shares suffered the heaviest selling on Monday, industry airline executives met with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta on Tuesday to review a request for $24 billion in government aid.

While Bush sought to build a strong international coalition for a possible attack on Afghanistan, some world leaders who condemned the terrorist attacks sounded alarm bells at the prospect of U.S. military strikes.

China said any U.S. military action should avoid harming innocent people and should respect international law.

Germany voiced caution. "We need to react with a cool head," Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.

But with Washington warning the world it was time to pick sides, Britain and Italy said they would contribute their military forces if asked to.

Reports in Pakistani newspapers raised the possibility that the Taliban could be ready for negotiations. The Taliban may be prepared to hand over bin Laden, who has denied any hand in the attacks, under certain conditions, according to reports in the Nation and Jang newspapers. The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Conditions included the trial of bin Laden in a neutral Islamic country, lifting of UN sanctions against the Taliban, economic assistance and suspension of foreign aid and military supplies to the Afghan opposition, the reports said.

But a senior Afghan cleric also said the Taliban would launch a jihad, or holy war, against the United States if it attacks. Officials of the Islamic movement quickly said the final decision was with a council of clerics, due to convene this week. That council on Tuesday postponed for 24 hours a discussion on the fate of bin Laden.

The FBI is following up 47,000 leads. U.S. authorities have arrested at least four witnesses with key information about the attacks or who posed a flight risk. They have also detained 49 other people for immigration violations.