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Russia: Ivanov To Meet Top U.S. Officials

Washington, 18 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is due to arrive in the United States later today ahead of meetings with top U.S. officials. He is expected to meet tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and U.S. President George W. Bush.

Talks will focus on Russia's stance in the U.S. fight against terrorism.

U.S. plans for a missile defense system also are likely to be on the agenda.

Ivanov said recently that Russia believes the world must present a "united response" to the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.

But Russia's armed forces chief of staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin, said Russia is unlikely to join in any U.S. retaliatory strikes.

In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says the number of people missing from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has risen to 5,422. He said yesterday that 201 bodies have been recovered, 135 of which have been identified.

The mayor refused to rule out the possibility of finding more survivors in the rubble. But he said the people of New York "must prepare for the reality that we're not going to recover a significant number of people."

No one has been pulled out alive from the rubble since 12 September, one day after the attack.

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush said America is ready to defend its freedom and way of life at any cost.

Bush said the U.S. is determined to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. Saudi-born bin Laden is widely regarded as the prime suspect in the 11 September terrorist attacks. He is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

Also, Attorney General John Ashcroft says accomplices of the men who hijacked commercial planes in the coordinated terrorist attacks on New York and Washington may still be in the U.S.

In other developments:

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both in Washington, cancelled annual meetings due 29-30 September out of respect for families touched by terror attacks and to let law enforcement officials focus on issues raised by attacks.

President Bush met with several American Islamic leaders at an Islamic center in Washington and told them the United States will not tolerate violence against its Islamic citizens. Bush made the trip amid reports of attacks directed at members of the Arab-American community, including assaults, arsons, threatening communications, and two possibly ethnically motivated murders.

The news agency run by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia warned residents today to prepare for a U.S. invasion and a jihad (holy war) against the United States. The Bakhtar News Agency said Taliban leaders are spreading the message throughout the country today.

A similar message was broadcast on the Taliban's Voice of Shariat radio, monitored by the BBC. The Afghan Islamic Press quotes the deputy chairman of the Taliban Council of Ministers, Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhond, as saying the Taliban will call for a jihad if the United States attacks Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's Islamic scholars and tribal chiefs are meeting in Kabul to decide the fate of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

And a high-level Pakistani delegation planned to meet with Taliban officials in Afghanistan for a second day today.