The White House has rejected requests from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban for proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for last week's attacks. According to the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, the United States has enough evidence to try bin Laden in an American court.

The US Government said there would be no negotiations. It said that President Bush had made his conditions clear in a speech before Congress last night. Their position remains that there will be no discussions and no negotiations.

President Bush warned unless his demands were met, Afghanistan would share the same fate as the terrorists, and said that the hour was coming when America would take action.

He told Americans that they should expect a lengthy campaign against global terrorism in the wake of last week's strikes on New York and Washington and he called on the US military to be prepared.

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party insisted that America must produce firm evidence that bin Laden was behind the attacks, or they would not hand him over.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan is reported to have said that his government could not force Osama bin Laden to leave Afghanistan. According to a news agency report, the ambassador said a council of the county's senior clerics had ruled that bin Laden should be persuaded to leave Afghanistan, not forcibly removed.

Bin Laden is the head of a loose network of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups, called Al-Qaeda (the Base). He is suspected of masterminding last week's attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The Secretary General of NATO has backed President Bush's demand for the Taliban regime to hand over bin Laden and the other leaders of his network. NATO's George Robertson said that Mr Bush had made his call, not only on behalf of the United States, but also on behalf of all countries of the world.

In a separate development, President Bush announced the creation of a Cabinet-level position to oversee the protection of America from attack. He has appointed the Republican Governor for Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge to oversee what is to be called the Office of Homeland Security. The post will involve co-ordinating the work of the FBI and the CIA.

Republican and Democratic members of the Congress hailed President Bush's call to arms. Reflecting that sentiment, a poll taken after the President's address to the nation also found overwhelming support for his response to last week's attacks on New York and Washington.