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NATO: Defense Ministers Pledge Antiterrorst Cooperation

Prague, 27 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Defense ministers from NATO and Russia have pledged increased cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. The pledges came after a meeting in Brussels between NATO defense ministers and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Few details were given, but Ivanov said he expected enhanced intelligence cooperation and increased senior-level consultations between Russia and NATO.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the U.S. is seeking intelligence help from Russia and the NATO allies to locate Osama bin Laden, the Islamic extremist accused by the U.S. of masterminding the 11 September terror attacks that left nearly 7,000 people dead or missing. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

Supporters of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan yesterday set fire to buildings in the compound of the deserted U.S. Embassy in Kabul and torched cars left on the compound in a show of anti-American sentiment.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar urged Afghans who have fled the country over possible U.S. military action to return. Omar said the prospect of a massive U.S. military attack on Afghanistan had receded.

In neighboring Pakistan, officials said Pakistan's government and the U.S. were in "complete unanimity" on ways to combat terrorism and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in Afghanistan. No details were given, but Pakistani officials emphasized that the agreement with the U.S. concerns fighting terrorists, not Afghans. U.S. and Pakistani officials held two days of talks in Islamabad.

In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Iran would not participate in the U.S.'s declared war on terrorism. Khamenei said the U.S. is not competent nor sincere enough to lead such a global campaign. He said Iran supports neither the U.S. nor terrorists.

The International Monetary Fund said the world faces lower economic growth in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. The IMF forecast world economic growth this year at 2.6 percent -- the lowest level since 1993.