Bush warns Taliban to turn over bin Laden or else, says U.S. casualties likely
Friday, September 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rejecting President Bush's point-blank demand, the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan refused Friday to hand over Osama bin Laden, suspected mastermind behind the worst terrorist attacks in American history. The Pentagon deployed additional planes to support a military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
On the morning after Bush outlined plans for a global war on terrorism in a nationally televised address, Congress struggled to nail down final details of multibillion-dollar legislation to stabilize the nation's ailing airlines. But the nation's economic uncertainty was reflected in a gyrating stock market, down sharply, then up, then down again _ all before noon.
Bush was at the White House when Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan said that if America has proof, ``we are ready for the trial of Osama bin Laden in light of the evidence.'' Asked if the Taliban were ready to hand him over otherwise, Abdul Salam Zaeef replied, ``No.'' His translator amended that to say, ``No, not without evidence.''
To Bush's demand, the ambassador added a warning of his own: ``It has angered Muslims of the world and can plunge the whole region into a crisis.''
The White House ruled out negotiating with the Taliban, but was open to diplomacy by other nations that could create pressure on terrorist-harboring countries.
``But don't mistake the two,'' said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. ``The president could not have been more clear about his conditions. But diplomatic efforts around the world will continue to help secure the president's goals.''
A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, disclosed the additional deployment of aircraft to the Persian Gulf, including refueling planes. Although numbering fewer than a dozen, they come in addition to more than 100 aircraft already told to move to locations around the globe.
Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said, ``you'll see a lot of activity. We're preparing for what could very well be a wide range of options. So, you will see a lot of people moving, you'll see a lot of equipment moving.''
Key lawmakers and administration officials negotiated for much of the night on the terms for a bailout of the airlines, whose business has been devastated in the wake of last week's terror-hijackings. The emerging measure offers $5 billion in direct aid, $10 billion in loan guarantees, and provisions to shelter the carriers from liability arising from the deaths and destruction that resulted in the attacks.
House leaders hoped for passage by day's end, and Northwest Airlines added urgency to the effort, announcing layoffs of 10,000 jobs. But there were last-minute sticking points, as some lawmakers raised objections to the liability protections and others sought money to bolster air service to smaller, less profitable markets.
The tally of missing and presumed dead stood at well over 6,000 in attacks in which terrorists flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside after passengers struggled with their hijackers.
Improbably, perhaps, fires still burned at the site of the Trade Center as New York struggled to return to normal. Hundreds of rescue workers in yellow slickers dug through the wreckage despite sporadic, sometimes heavy rain and lightning. And yet, ``The chance of recovering anyone alive is very, very small,'' conceded Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In his speech Thursday night, Bush told the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and his terrorist followers or ``share in their fate'' when the United States strikes.
The president also announced creation of a Cabinet-level department to tighten security at home and coordinate efforts to prepare for potential attacks. ``Some speak of an age of terror,'' the president said. ``I know there are struggles ahead and dangers to face.''
Also in his speech, Bush promised ``active steps that strengthen America's economy and put our people back to work,'' but gave no details. He made that pledge amid predictions that the terrorism response could cost $100 billion and send the federal budget into the red for the first time in four years.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., made clear that no budget issue is more important than this fight. Asked on CBS' ``The Early Show'' if he is prepared to spend the entire Social Security surplus to battle terrorism, Daschle replied: ``We have to put our nation's security before we put any other questions to the Congress or to the American people.''
Bush's speech, delivered under unusually tight security to a joint meeting of the House and Senate, was greeted with roars of bipartisan approval in the packed House chamber, with millions of TV viewers looking on.
``We are resolved to work together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans,'' Daschle said following Bush's address.
More acts of terrorism are possible, Bush noted. And, he added, ``Now this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
``I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat,'' he said.
Along those lines, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice Thursday prohibiting until further notice flights in the immediate vicinity of any major professional or collegiate sporting event.
Authorities scoured the country, meanwhile, for leads to possible collaborators in the Sept. 11 attacks. FBI Director Robert Mueller said doubt has been cast on the identities of some of the suicide hijackers, after agents in Chicago arrested a man with the same name as a jailed bin Laden associate. Mueller said authorities are certain that most of the identities are correct.
As Bush spoke, with his vice president and health secretary sequestered so the line of succession would remain intact, American military personnel began streaming from bases around the country, bound for duty in the Persian Gulf.