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U.S.: Washington Pressing On With Antiterror Coalition

  • Frank Csongos

In Washington and abroad, the United States is seeking further support for its campaign against international terrorism. Yesterday, for instance, Secretary of State Colin Powell received the emir of Qatar who said his Persian Gulf state would do all it could to help. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is on a visit to the Middle East and Central Asia to strengthen U.S. ties there.

Washington, 4 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States pressed ahead yesterday with forging an international coalition against terrorism in anticipation of a military showdown against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who pledged to stand with the U.S. in any attack against terrorists. The Persian Gulf state monarch said following the meeting at the State Department that there is no question the two countries have a "military relationship" that dictates such cooperation.

In trying to reassure Arab nations that the fight is not against Muslims, Powell said: "We are not seeing this as anti-Arab, anti-Islam. It's anti-terrorism. And we're going after the Al-Qaeda organization where it is located, by all the means at our disposal."

Powell was referring to the shadowy network headed by suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. The U.S. government has accused bin Laden of masterminding the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington that killed an estimated 6,000 people. Bin Laden is said to be hiding in Afghanistan. The Taliban militia, which controls 90 percent of the country, has repeatedly refused to surrender him.

Powell said: "We are not looking for conflict with other nations. But as the president (George W. Bush) has indicated, we have to make sure that this campaign focuses on Al-Qaeda, but also takes note of those nations that provide haven, provide succor, provide support to terrorist organizations. But this is not the beginning of some conflict with other Arab nations. We are keeping our attention focused on our principal objective, which in this first instance is Al-Qaeda."

Speaking in New York, President George W. Bush reinforced this view when he said: "Not only this president is resolved but America is resolved to rout out terrorism, to make sure that legitimate governments can survive as we're headed into the 21st century and to make a strong sense for freedom."

Bush also said he wants the U.S. Congress to approve an economic stimulus plan to avert a recession caused in part by last month's terrorist attacks.

Bush said the American people and the business community should understand that the U.S. government is prepared to take strong steps to help the economy.

In Washington, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told members of Congress that the tax cut should be between $60 billion to $75 billion. That would be on top of a recent federal tax rebate to individuals that totaled $40 billion and a $15 billion package to help the U.S. airline industry.

As part of the coalition building, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Saudi Arabia yesterday on the first leg of a trip telling key nations what the U.S. needs in the war on international terrorism. His schedule also includes visits to Oman, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic that borders on Afghanistan.

In a related development, the State Department said a senior U.S. diplomat was set to meet in Italy today with exiled Afghan King Zahir Shah.

The diplomat is the department's policy planning chief Richard Haass. Spokesman Richard Boucher said Haass wants to see the exiled monarch as part of continuing U.S. contacts with a variety of Afghan factions.

The Bush administration says it is not in the business of deciding what government should be in power in Afghanistan. But officials also say the Afghan people deserve better than the Taliban.