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U.S. won't negotiate with Afghanistan to get bin Laden

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States will not negotiate with Afghanistan's hard-line government to get custody of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden or members of his terrorist network, the White House said Wednesday.

"It's time for actions, not negotiations, with the Taliban," spokesman Ari Fleischer said. He also ruled out presenting the United Nations with evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the devastating Sept. 11 attack.

"People who we are after would very much ... love to remain in hiding, and know what we know and how we know it," the White House spokesman said. "We're not about to do that."

President Bush is intensifying efforts to gain concrete support for a war on global terrorism, meeting with allies and making overtures toward nations that shelter some of the world's most notorious terrorists.

For countries with tenuous relationships with the United States, the message was clear: Support a crackdown on terrorism or face U.S. retaliation.

Bush was meeting Wednesday with the president of Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim nation, as well as the foreign ministers of Russia and Germany.

He called South Korean President Kim dae Jung, who promised to participate in the international coalition, and the two leaders indicated they still plan to meet at an economic summit in Seoul next month, Fleischer said.

At the same time, the administration is moving to get the money to pursue its effort. Bush signed into law Tuesday a $40 billion package, most of which will go to recovery efforts in New York City, Washington and southwestern Pennsylvania -- where four hijacked planes crashed last week, killing thousands of people -- and to battle terrorism.

He was meeting Wednesday with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to discuss a financial for reviving an economy stung by the Sept. 11 attacks. Fleischer said Bush was likely to embrace some economic stimulus, though he was open to what form it would take.

The president also signed a congressional resolution authorizing him to use military force against the terrorists responsible for the attacks, the worst in U.S. history.

These efforts came as the exhausting search for victims and the cleanup continued at New York's World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa., and as federal authorities ratcheted up their hunt for collaborators to the terrorists who killed themselves and thousands others in the attacks. Authorities expect the total death count to exceed 5,400.

As the U.S. military moved toward a war footing, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday the nation's response to the attacks must reach beyond finding bin Laden, the Saudi exile in Afghanistan who is considered the prime suspect.

"This is not a problem of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden," Rumsfeld said on CNN. "It is a problem of a number of networks of terrorists that have been active across the globe." He said there is evidence bin Laden and his associates are operating in 50 to 60 countries, including the United States.

As Rumsfeld spoke, the 15,000-strong USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group prepared to leave Norfolk, Va., for a long-scheduled deployment in the Mediterranean that has become more than routine in light of the terrorist attacks.

"There are great young American sailors and Marines on those ships," the commander, Rear Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, told ABC's "Good Morning America." "I've looked into the eyes of many of them this week and, boy, they are ready and determined. ... Whatever the president needs us to do, we're ready to do it."

Administration officials on Tuesday made contact with leaders from Sudan and Cuba -- nations on the State Department's terrorism warning list.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said late Tuesday after arriving in Washington: "It is becoming an imperative -- unification of efforts of all the international community in the fight against the terrorist threat."

As the administration shored up support and drew battle lines, the massive investigation continued to find evidence of other plots against America.

Three Detroit men were arrested Tuesday on charges of identity fraud and misuse of visas. Court records said the FBI seized documents suggesting the men worked in food preparation for airlines at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and collected information about an American military base in Turkey, a U.S. "foreign minister," an airport in Jordan and diagrams of aircraft locations and runways.

Authorities have grown increasingly certain -- from intelligence intercepts, witness interviews and evidence gathered in hijackers' cars and homes -- that a second wave of violence was planned by collaborators. They said Sept. 22 has emerged as an important date in the evidence, but declined to be more specific.

The Sept. 11 attacks were "part of a larger plan with other terrorism acts, not necessarily hijacking of airplanes," said Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Those acts were going to occur in the United States and elsewhere in the world."

In the face of the evidence, Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to wage a "concerted national assault" on terrorists as he expanded the investigation to marshal the resources of every U.S. attorney in the country.

The investigation has detained 75 people for questioning and has four people under arrest as material witnesses, law enforcement officials said.

The government also announced a new policy that gives immigration authorities 48 hours, or longer in emergencies, to decide whether to charge an alien with status violations, up from 24 hours. Many of those questioned in the terrorist attack were being detained on immigration violations.

America was still struggling to find a new status quo. Wall Street stabilized after its biggest one-day point drop in history; nevertheless, stocks were down in early trading Wednesday.

Congress and the Bush administration told the nation's airlines they could expect quick, multibillion-dollar relief to help them recover from effects of the attack.


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