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News Briefs

Jackson Asked to Meet With Taliban

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Thursday he is considering a trip to Afghanistan to meet with Taliban leaders, but U.S. officials said they believed the journey would serve no purpose.

Jackson said he received a telegram Wednesday from a Taliban representative inviting him to talk about resolving the issue of handing over Osama bin Laden “in a way that preserves dignity and integrity of all sides.” He said he is considering leading a private American delegation to talk about bin Laden, listed by the U.S. government as the primary suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Jackson told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell of the invitation, apparently hoping to receive instructions for a back-channel diplomatic initiative. But Powell said he thought the trip would be pointless.

Saudis Permit Strike From Bases

THE WASHINGTON POST -- CAIRO, EGYPT

Torn between the conservative religious leanings of its people and a desire to help in the war on terrorism, Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will permit U.S. troops and planes stationed on its soil to participate in military action against Osama bin Laden and his protectors in Afghanistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

Prince Saud Faisal, the foreign minister, strongly indicated Saudi willingness to cooperate after meeting Wednesday with European Union officials. He said the kingdom was committed to an aggressive international campaign “not just to track down the criminals of the Sept. 11 attacks, but to exterminate the infrastructure that helps the terrorists.” Faisal said that if it comes to military action, Saudi Arabia “will not avoid its duty” as part of the coalition, according to an account of his remarks in the Saudi-based Arab News.

Saudi Arabia provided another important boost to the Bush administration’s campaign on Tuesday. It not only severed diplomatic relations with the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan, but did so in harsh language that accused the ultra-orthodox movement of having become little more than a criminal gang that tarnished the image and interests of Muslims worldwide.

Gunman Kills 14, Self At Swiss Government Meeting

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LONDON

A gunman wearing a police vest and bearing a deadly grudge stormed a regional parliament in Zug, Switzerland, on Thursday, killing 14 people and wounding at least 10 others before fatally shooting himself.

The assault -- unrelated to the recent terror attacks in the United States -- was the worst on record in bucolic Switzerland, a country that prides itself on its peace-loving image and low rate of violent crime.

Police said the gunman, identified as Friedrich Leibacher, 57, shot his way into a joint meeting of the Zug regional government and parliament with a standard-issue Swiss army assault rifle, shouting abuse and seeming to fire randomly.

The fatally wounded lawmakers collapsed as others screamed and dived for cover. Leibacher turned his fire on journalists who had been covering the parliamentary debate and detonated an explosive, which blew out doors and windows and filled the chamber with smoke. Then he killed himself.

Three of the seven members of Zug’s government council were among the dead, and two more were wounded. But council member Robert Bisig, whose name the gunman reportedly called out amid his fury, was unharmed.