Pentagon calls up more reservists; officials toughening airline security

Tuesday, September 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon issued call-up orders for nearly 2,000 more reservists Tuesday and administration officials firmed up plans for stricter airline security in the wake of the terrorist strikes. Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic ties with the Afghanistan, accused of harboring the prime suspect.

``The coalition of legitimate governments and freedom-loving people is strong,'' said President Bush, welcoming the Saudi move as well as fresh words of support from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Defiant, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization warned Washington against attacks against him or Afghanistan: ``Wherever there are Americans and Jews, they will be targeted.''

The statement was faxed to news organizations in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, in the name of al-Qaida's chief military commander, Naseer Ahmed Mujahed, and released less than 48 hours before the beginning of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews worldwide.

The Pentagon call-up orders covered combat communications and intelligence personnel, as well as military police _ and more. Officials said 190 members of a Puerto Rico-based mortuary unit had been called to duty to help authorities in New York with the difficult work in the ruins of the World Trade Center, where more than 6,000 people died.

The 1,940 call-ups were in addition to roughly 10,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve forces.

President Bush was meeting with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta at the White House as officials labored over plans to increase security and reassure an anxious public it is safe to fly.

Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration was on track to propose mandatory installation of secure doors between the cockpit and cabin on all jetliners, as well as an expanded presence of armed air marshals aboard flights. One source said the hope was to have marshals on most if not all flights.

The administration was not inclined to make federal workers of all security personnel at airports, those who staff security checkpoints for passengers and carry-on bags, for example. Instead, the proposal is likely to be for the FAA to have a great role in overseeing private security companies, as well as a more robust effort to cross-check information on their personnel with law enforcement data bases already in existence. A proposal from the pilots union to allow its members to carry weapons aboard flights is unlikely to win approval from the administration, these officials said.

In addition, the administration is developing plans to make general aviation more secure. The nation has a large number of private planes, jets included, as well as landing strips, and officials are struggling to come up with a plan to provide security without unnecessary government interference.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell traveled to the Capitol to give lawmakers a secret briefing on the status of military and diplomatic steps to respond to the attacks.

The stock market closed with a gain of 50 points for the Dow Jones industrial average. But in fresh evidence of fallout from terrorism, consumer confidence fell sharply in September.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the administration had not yet decided whether to support a broad-based economic stimulus package, including tax cuts. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, meeting privately with senators, was quoted as saying that to be effective, any plan may need to be as large as $100 billion.

Two weeks to the day after attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, New Yorkers picked up politically where they had left off, choosing candidates for a November mayoral election. Term-limited Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, widely praised for his stewardship since the attacks, stoked speculation he might want to stay in the job.

The number of confirmed dead at the trade center, hit by hijacked jetliners, rose to 279. The number of missing stood at 6,398. Another 189 people perished at the Pentagon, hit in a similar attack, and 44 more died when a hijacked plane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.

``I think the war aims are clear,'' House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt said after he and other lawmakers met with Bush at the White House. ``In a way, it's meeting guerrilla warfare with guerrilla warfare, but it's also meeting it with financial efforts, and political efforts, and diplomatic efforts,'' said the Missouri Democrat.

Saudi Arabia's move left Pakistan as the only nation in the world to maintain ties with the Taliban _ and Pakistan has pledged cooperation with the American-led war on terrorism. It leaves Afghanistan's hard-line Islamic regime ever more isolated in its showdown with the United States over bin Laden, the No. 1 suspect in the attacks.

Separate from Saudi Arabia's move, Russian President Vladimir Putin underlined his country's commitment to an international coalition against terror, calling for the ``complete ideological and political isolation'' of international terrorists. He spoke in Berlin after meeting with German leaders.

Bush welcomed both actions in remarks to reporters at the White House after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. ``I am most pleased that the Saudi Arabians yesterday cut off relations with the Taliban and that President Putin, in a strong statement, talked about the cooperation that the United States and Russia will have,'' he said.

He said Japan will ``share intelligence that will work cooperatively'' in the diplomatic war on terrorism.'' Two Japanese newspapers reported Japan will send warships to the Indian Ocean as early as this week to carry out intelligence and surveillance missions. The squadron may accompany the USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier that left its base near Tokyo on Friday, the reports said.

Fleischer announced that Bush would travel to Chicago on Thursday to pledge support for the battered airlines industry and urge Americans to resume normal spending practices.

He spoke as the Conference Board in New York was providing fresh evidence that Americans' concerns about an already weakened economy had been redoubled by the attacks. The New York-based business group said its Consumer Confidence Index sank to 97.6 from a revised 114 in August.

Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin met privately with the Senate Finance Committee, and said a stimulus amounting to 1 percent of the nation's gross domestic product would be a proper benchmark, according to senators and aides who attended the session.

There was also general agreement among the Democrats and Republicans that any stimulus should be temporary, perhaps limited to two or three years, to guard against negative long-term effects such as federal budget deficits and higher home mortgage rates.

At the White House, Gephardt said Bush was taking the right approach in targeting terrorist cells rather than civilians. He said that removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan is not necessarily a goal.

``I don't think it's anybody's goal to topple governments in this,'' Gephardt said. However, he added, the fact that the Taliban is supportive of bin Laden ``gives us real pause, and obviously we'd like to change that position on their part.''