Powell says bin Laden is prime suspect in attacks
AP Diplomatic WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell identified Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and said he would press the president of Pakistan for information on his operations.
Powell, at a news conference Thursday, became the first senior Bush administration official to say for the record what many have been saying privately: that bin Laden is suspected of engineering the attacks.
"We are looking at those terrorist organizations who have the kind of capacity that would have been necessary to conduct the kind of attack that we saw," Powell said.
Saying the administration had not yet publicly identified the organization it believed responsible, Powell added: "When you look at the list of candidates, one resides in the region."
Asked whether he was referring to bin Laden, the Saudi expatriate who runs a terrorist network from Afghanistan, Powell replied: "Yes."
Powell said he was telephoning President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a neighbor of Afghanistan, to seek "a specific list of things that we think would be useful for them to work on with us."
Powell described Pakistan as a friend of the United States, but also said the relationship had had its "ups and downs."
In Islamabad, Musharraf pledged "unstinted cooperation." Besides Powell's telephone call, lDeputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage planned to follow up with Maleecha Lodhi, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington.
Bin Laden has enjoyed sanctuary in neighboring Afghanistan, most of which is controlled by the Taliban, a fiercely Muslim fundamentalist movement.
Meanwhile, Armitage scheduled a trip to Moscow on Wednesday to follow up on a Russian offer to help in the investigation.
Russia fought a 10-year war with Muslim fundamentalists after invading Afghanistan in 1979. The United States opposed the Soviet invasion and provided weapons to the insurgents through Pakistan.
Also on the diplomatic front, President Bush spoke by telephone with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said all four leaders told Bush that "they stand united with the people of the United States."
"We have just seen the first war of the 21st century," Bush told reporters after speaking by phone with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "I am confident there will be universal approval of the actions this government takes."