ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 8 (AP) - Afghanistan's Taliban rulers are prepared to allow Osama bin Laden - sought by the United States on terrorism charges - to be tried by Islamic clerics, perhaps in a third country, Pakistan's interior minister said Thursday.

It was the Taliban's latest attempt to try to appease the United Nations, which has imposed sanctions on Afghanistan's ruling militia to press demands that they hand over bin Laden for trial in the United States or a third country.

The United States accuses bin Laden of masterminding the bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He is also a suspect in last year's bombing of the USS Cole, in which 17 American sailors were killed.

Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider, returning from a two-day trip to Afghanistan, said the Taliban were prepared to hand over bin Laden for trial by three Islamic clerics -- one each from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and a third to be nominated by the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Washington has been pressing Pakistan, considered the Taliban government's staunchest ally, to use its influence to secure bin Laden's surrender.

The Taliban, who rule more than 95 percent of Afghanistan, have rejected the pressure to release bin Laden, saying he can stay in Afghanistan until any terrorist activity is proven.

``All the Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammed Omar, have said that they don't want to export extremism or terrorism,'' Haider said, adding that the U.S. administration should pursue the latest offer.

A leading Egyptian newspaper reported Thursday that Pakistan's military ruler has suggested that bin Laden be tried in a third country, following the precedent of the recent trial of two Libyans in the Lockerbie bombing case.

``If that was possible with the Lockerbie case, why not try it again, and even in the same place,'' the Netherlands, Gen. Pervez Musharraf was quoted as saying in the Al-Ahram daily.

Haider said Musharraf's remarks were in line with the Taliban's proposal.

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