21 nations, EU confer on aid to postwar Afghanistan; Powell urges quick action

Tuesday, November 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell appealed Tuesday for a global effort to assist the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. ``We have a noble task before us,'' he said as 21 nations and the European Union met to consider assistance.

``The vast majority of the Afghan people awake hungry, cold and sick every morning,'' Powell said. ``An entire generation of Afghans have never known peace.

``We must act as fast as we can,'' he said. ``We must act as soon as possible.''

Echoing the U.S. pitch at a joint news conference, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said it is important to push forward quickly on humanitarian aid.

Fischer also announced Germany will host a meeting of Afghan groups planning a post-Taliban government. He said his government is eager to assist in the formation of a broad-based government for Afghanistan.

Fischer stressed the meeting in Berlin would be held under U.N. auspices.

With the Taliban in retreat, the United States and its war coalition partners, including Germany, are eager to help put a successor government in place.

The northern alliance, which took control of the capital against U.S. wishes, had insisted on having the meeting in Kabul, but ultimately relented.

Still, it described Monday's meeting as merely symbolic.

Powell said, meanwhile, he was signing written authorization for a reward of up to $25 million for the capture of Osama bin Laden, head of the al-Qaida terrorism organization. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed the reward Monday.

President Bush committed $320 million in assistance to Afghanistan last month, even as U.S. bombers were blasting Taliban targets in retribution for refusal to surrender Laden and dismantle his terrorism network.

Powell said the onset of winter underscores a need for prompt relief for refugees and others in need.

``We do not yet know how much money or other forms of rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance will be needed from the international community,'' he said.

With a war on and the country unsettled, a comprehensive assessment of needs is not possible, he said.

Japan cosponsored the meeting with the United States. The media were barred from listening to the discussion.

On another front, Richard Perle urged the Bush administration to use troops, bombers, dissidents and opposition forces to destroy President Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

Perle, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration, said Iraq should be the next target after the Taliban is defeated because ``it poses the greatest threat to the United States.''

There is evidence linking Saddam to the al-Qaida organization, Perle said in a breakfast with reporters, and ``the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein is to destroy his regime.''

He said the United States would not need much support from other Arab countries. Whatever they might say officially about a U.S. attack, ``there will be dancing in the streets'' when Saddam is overthrown, Perle said.

His defeat would serve as notice to other nations supporting terrorism that they may be targeted as well, Perle said.

He is a member of a defense policy board that offers advice to the Bush administration. But Perle said he was speaking for himself.