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U.S.: Unified Country Vows War On Terrorism

  • Robert McMahon

The U.S. government is moving ahead with plans to mount a war-like anti-terrorism effort and has named Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden as a leading suspect in this week's attacks. The administration of President George W. Bush has continued meetings with Pakistani officials to gain their help in tracking down bin Laden, who is in Afghanistan. Washington is making a priority of building an international response to terrorism.

Washington, 14 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has named Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden as a leading suspect in this week's terrorist attacks and said it is mounting an international campaign to destroy terrorist networks that bin Laden is believed to be directing.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters yesterday that he is seeking Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's cooperation in apprehending bin Laden.

Media reports say the United States has urged Pakistan to close its border with Afghanistan, cut off funding for terrorist groups, and grant permission for U.S. warplanes to fly over its territory in the event of military action.

Musharraf earlier pledged "full support" for U.S. efforts without specifying what type of cooperation Pakistan is offering.

Pakistan is one of three countries to recognize Afghanistan's Taliban leadership, which has refused to extradite bin Laden. Pakistan is believed to have the best intelligence information about the operations of Islamic militants in Afghanistan.

Powell said the effort against suspected terrorists goes beyond military action:

"I am speaking about war, the president is speaking about war, as a way of focusing the energy of America and the energy of the international community against this kind of activity. And war, in some cases, may be military action, but it can also be economic action, political action, diplomatic action and financial actions. All sorts of things can be used to prosecute a campaign, to prosecute a war."

At the same time, the country's Republican and Democratic leaders yesterday repeatedly stressed their solidarity in the name of national security. The death toll from the 11 September attacks seems certain to rise above 5,000 people.

Leaders of both chambers of the U.S. Congress are reported to be near agreement on a resolution supporting possible anti-terrorist strikes by President George W. Bush. As commander-in-chief, Bush has the authority to take limited military action he considers appropriate. A resolution would demonstrate congressional support and provide the president with some broader powers, as well.

Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, in comments to reporters, repeated the president's earlier statements that the United States cannot respond to the attack with only conventional means.

"This is a different type of enemy in the 21st century. This enemy is nameless. This enemy is faceless. This enemy has no specific borders. This enemy does not have airplanes sitting on tarmacs. It does not have ships that move from one port city to the next. This is a different kind of enemy."

One sign of the new bipartisan approach to national security was yesterday's confirmation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of Bush's nominee for UN ambassador. John Negroponte's nomination had been delayed for months while some senators examined reports that he suppressed information on human rights violations in Honduras when he was ambassador there in the early 1980s.

But a majority of senators yesterday supported Negroponte's work in Honduras and said the long-term diplomat was needed to rally the international community behind Washington's anti-terror campaign.

The committee chairman, Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat, told Negroponte he would play a key role at the United Nations -- eradicating state support for terrorism.

"You are going to have to play, as you well know -- I hope you know -- an incredibly important part in following up what I think should be the number one, overwhelming, unquestioned priority for the United States of America over the next days and weeks and months."

Negroponte, a diplomat with 37 years of experience, vowed to work for democracy, rule of law, and human rights at his UN post. He said he recognizes the central role of the United Nations in combating terrorism and is heartened by the international response so far to this week's attacks.

"The despicable and tragic acts of terror perpetrated in New York and Washington the day before yesterday dramatically underscore grave challenges to our fundamental values. The world of the 21st century, like the centuries before, remains a place of peril, but we do not face these challenges alone."

The full Senate was expected to complete the confirmation process as early as today.

The massive U.S. investigation into the four terrorist hijackings continues to make progress. Searchers found one of the "black boxes" from the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, which could contain information about the last minutes of that flight. Rescue workers also received a signal from one of the black boxes in the plane that crashed at the U.S. Defense Department headquarters outside Washington.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the U.S. believes at least 18 hijackers were on the four passenger jets and, overall, 50 people may have been involved in the operation. In addition, German officials say three of the terrorists who died in the suicide attacks were part of a group of Islamic extremists in Hamburg who have been planning attacks on the United States. Police in Hamburg detained one man and are seeking another.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is said to be working on "thousands and thousands" of potential leads to the attacks.