World briefs 9/8/03

Monday, September 8, 2003

Afghan troops prepare for new attack on Taliban

QALAT, Afghanistan -- Hundreds of Afghan government troops prepared Sunday for a new offensive against Taliban guerrillas in the south and east, including along on the border with Pakistan.

The planned offensive came amid a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who told a joint news conference in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai that the infiltration of terrorists into Afghanistan "is something that requires continuing attention."

"It's happening all across the globe. It proves the point that the global war on terror is not a problem in one country or for one country," Rumsfeld said.

A spate of attacks on Afghan police positions along the border and inland and heavy fighting in the past two weeks in a remote mountainous region of southern Zabul province have raised fresh doubts about the precarious grip Karzai has over parts of the country.

Iran warns too much pressure could backfire

VIENNA, Austria -- Iran's chief delegate to the U.N. atomic agency warned the United States and other nations ahead of a Monday meeting that nuclear tensions could be aggravated if they put too much pressure on Tehran to open its programs to inspectors.

Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran still was open to negotiating the inspection issue with the International Atomic Energy Agency, but indicated the offer could be withdrawn if IAEA board meeting "disrupted the whole process."

The meeting likely will urge Iran to make its nuclear program accessible by agreeing to a protocol allowing tougher IAEA inspections without notice. Under strong international pressure, Iran last month offered to negotiate the IAEA protocol.

Monday's meeting also will ask Tehran to explain agency findings that the Americans and others say point to the existence of a covert nuclear weapons program.

"We are sitting on a very thin edge," Salehi said. "It could tilt one way or the other very easily. You may make a country halt, but you may also push it into a more institutionalized covert nuclear weapons program."

Saudi man sought in international manhunt

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- One of the Saudi men the FBI has linked to possible terror threats against America also appears on a Saudi list of militants connected to the May suicide bombings in Riyadh, a Saudi Interior Ministry official said Sunday.

The FBI issued a worldwide alert Friday for four men linked to al-Qaida, including a suspected terror cell leader and an avowed suicide attacker, following new intelligence indicating they might be plotting attacks against the United States.

Zubayr al-Rimi, 29, a Saudi native, was among the four men and Saudi authorities identified a photo of him as being that of Sultan Jubran Sultan al-Qahtani, a Saudi Interior Ministry official said.

The FBI bulletin said al-Qahtani was an alias for al-Rimi.

Al-Qahtani appears on the Saudi list of 19 alleged militants wanted after police discovered a weapons cache near the capital, Riyadh, in May.

-- From wire reports

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