Powell triggers public relations campaign in Arab world

Friday, October 26th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States welcomes new recruits to the war against terrorism, but won't relax its human rights and other standards to gain allies.

``The United States welcomes any country, any party, that is genuinely prepared to work with us,'' Powell said in a speech to private relief and other groups.

Lashing out at the head of the al-Qaida network, Powell said terrorism was ``a threat to civilization and is directed against people.''

``It represents no faith, no religion,'' he said. ``It is evil, it is murderous, and that's why terrorist is the right noun applied to people like Osama bin Laden.''

There are 3 million refugees in Pakistan as a result of the war and a 3-year drought. An official of the Agency for International Development said Friday about 1 million more are expected to cross the border from Afghanistan over the winter, with a half-million more seeking sanctuary in other countries.

Bear McConnell, director of a U.S. assistance task force that went to Pakistan this week, said Iran was providing food for displaced people in Afghanistan. He said it was an ``excellent'' humanitarian program that Iran had undertaken with ``intricate motivations,'' including distaste for the ruling Taliban militia.

Also, he said, Uzbekistan, which borders northern Afghanistan, where most of the refugees are clustered, will open a bridge to the country through which assistance for about 40 percent of the refugees.

Powell on Thursday approved a worldwide public relations campaign designed to convince hundreds of thousands of skeptical Muslims that the U.S. campaign to eliminate the al-Qaida terrorism network is not a conflict with Islam.

Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that statements by Muslim clerics denouncing the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks on the United States were being sent to U.S. embassies for public distribution in their countries.

A retired American diplomat will also make radio broadcasts in Arabic explaining that the United States is in conflict with those who misuse religion in their attacks on Americans and U.S. facilities.

Christopher Ross, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, will make the broadcasts.

Powell also told the committee that peacekeepers may patrol Afghanistan after the conflict is ended, but use of a force from the United Nations was unlikely.

He said Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, did not support the use of ``the blue helmets.''

``It is hard to get peacekeepers ready to fight,'' Powell said.

Turkey has offered to organize a peacekeeping force drawn mostly from Muslim countries, but the idea has been put on a back-burner as the Bush administration consults with U.N. officials and other governments.

Powell said there is a debate over the composition of the force to be deployed. But whatever form the government in Kabul takes, ``Taliban must be removed'' from power, he said.

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