The Taliban have finally delivered their message to Usama bin Laden: Please choose to leave Afghanistan.
That announcement, coming Thursday from the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, reverses the previous Taliban stand that they do not know the location of the exiled Saudi.
"Usama has now received the Ulema council's recommendations and their endorsement," Ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef said. "We have not lost Usama, but he is out of sight of the people."
Bin Laden is the U.S.'s chief suspect in the Sept.11 attacks that felled New York's Twin Towers and wrecked part of the Pentagon. President Bush has demanded that the Taliban hand over him and his lieutenants, among other demands, or face retaliation.
Zaeef did not say how the message was conveyed nor where bin Laden was hiding. He also did not indicate bin Laden's reaction to the message.
The Taliban's Ulema, a council of clerics, made a Sept. 20 ruling that bin Laden be asked to voluntarily leave their country, a decision "endorsed" by the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"The Ulema wants the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to encourage Usama to leave Afghanistan in the proper time and of his own free will," the Taliban-run Bakhtar news agency reported on the council decision.
The clerics did not set a deadline for bin Laden to leave when they made the recommendation during a meeting in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
But the de facto Afghan government claimed they couldn't deliver the message because they had no idea where he was. U.S. officials had dismissed the claims he was missing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.