President rebuffs Taliban negotiation

Monday, October 15, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush sternly rejected a Taliban offer to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a third country as U.S. jets began a second week of bombing. "They must have not heard. There's no negotiations," the president said.

The number of people exposed to anthrax grew to 12 with the addition of a police officer and two lab technicians in New York. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson declared that attempts to transmit the deadly bacteria through the mail "is an act of terrorism."

However, officials said they still do not have evidence linking the anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York to terrorists. "We should consider this potential that it is linked," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "It is premature at this time to decide whether there is a direct link."

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice sought to quell fears that the terrorists may have crude nuclear weapons. A defense official said last week that if the terrorists have obtained any nuclear material, they may be able to make a weapon that could spread radiation without an actual destructive explosion.

Bush Cabinet members mobilized at home and abroad Sunday.

Ashcroft said investigators are looking to question about 190 people who may have knowledge of terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Powell left for a high-priority diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India aimed at keeping tensions between those nations from further complicating the military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.

Bush reiterated the conditions the Taliban must meet before bombing will stop.

The Taliban must turn bin Laden over, and his colleagues and the thugs he hides, as well as destroy his camps and release the people being held hostage, he said.

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