ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Hopes for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with the Taliban government faded on Saturday, as Pakistani officials conceded they were running out of alternatives to a U.S. military attack.
"The Taliban have not budged from their stand on Usama bin Laden," Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider told reporters, the day after a delegation of clerics and the chief of Pakistan’s intelligence service failed in their one-day mission to convince the Taliban to budge.
A delegation of senior Islamic clerics, together with Pakistani intelligence chief Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, tried and failed Friday to persuade the Taliban to deliver bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
One Pakistani representative in Friday's delegation said he believed the Taliban's top leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was "not afraid of war" with America.
The group of religious officials, or ulema, who made the trip on Friday said they would like to try again to convince the Taliban to make some concessions. Pakistani officials said they would allow another effort, but did not indicate if they would participate.
Pakistani officials also said Saturday they had heard the trial of eight detained foreign aid workers accused of preaching Christianity in Afghanistan had been postponed until Sunday. The Pakistanis said they hoped the situation would be resolved "amicably and quickly."
President Bush has also demanded the Taliban free the foreign aid workers, who have been detained since August. Their lawyer, a Pakistani specializing in Islamic law, was said to be meeting with his clients.
Not all the news was bad. A food convoy of 19 trucks left the Pakistani city of Peshawar in the morning, part of a supply mission intended on bringing 400 tons of food to Afghanistan. It was the first food convoy to leave for Afghanistan since Sept. 11.
Officials with the U.N. World Food Program said they were confident the food would reach those who needed it most, and that most of it was headed to territory controlled by the Northern Alliance. Officials said they would treat today’s run as a "test case" before deciding when to resume.
The United Nations Children's Fund also announced it would use 4,000 donkeys to send some 220 tons of emergency supplies through a jagged mountain pass into northern Afghanistan.
The situation for refugees and others inside Afghanistan remains grim, aid officials said. Hundreds or even thousands of Afghans are crossing the border each day, in defiance of Pakistani regulations.
Refugee camps along the borders are said to be jammed.
Much of the talk in Pakistan on Saturday involved speculation about reports, confirmed on Friday, that U.S. special forces were already operating inside Afghanistan. Officials insisted there were no U.S. special forces currently in Pakistan, but avoided answering questions about whether there may be in the future.
Unconfirmed rumors here said the Taliban had actually captured three U.S. military commandos, a report that was quickly dismissed by both the Bush administration and the Taliban. Other reports said U.S. special forces were seen operating near the Pakistani border, which officials also denied.
There appear to be few other options preventing a U.S. military action.
Afghanistan has requested a special meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which groups 57 Muslim nations, and Pakistani officials said the gathering would probably be held Oct. 9 in Doha, Qatar.
It's not clear if all countries will attend, however, or if the United States will wait that long before launching a strike against the Taliban.
There were also some scattered protests across Pakistan on Saturday, mostly by those who opposed any military action in Afghanistan.
Pakistan's decision to support the United States — including possible use of its airspace and territory as staging ground for any military strikes — has drawn strong criticism from hard-line Islamic groups inside the country.
But protests have been modest in recent days, and seem to lack the intensity of previous rallies.
Fox News’ Refet Kaplan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.