Taliban face ultimatum

Warning: Give up bin Laden or feel `full wrath' of U.S.

Pakistanis to present U.S. demand

Bush urges patience, return to a sense of normality

Terrorism Strike America

On Alert

September 17, 2001|By Tom Bowman, Mark Matthews and Gail Gibson | Tom Bowman, Mark Matthews and Gail Gibson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Prodded by the United States, a high-level Pakistani delegation arrived in Afghanistan early today to meet with Taliban rulers, demanding that they surrender fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden or face U.S. military might.

The Pakistani mission is part of a diplomatic effort to bring bin Laden to justice and persuade the Taliban to help destroy his organization. If the Taliban refuse, they will suffer "the full wrath of the United States," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

Powell, interviewed on CNN's Late Edition, said the United States will make its approach to the Taliban in the next few days.

At the White House, President Bush said again that the war against terrorism will be a long one and urged the American people to be patient, return to their jobs today and rebuild a sense of normality.

"Today, millions of Americans mourned and prayed, and tomorrow we go back to work," he said late yesterday as he returned from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, where he had been huddling with his top national security advisers since Friday.

"Our nation was horrified, but it's not going to be terrorized," he said.

Of the terrorists who planned Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, he said, "They have roused a mighty giant."

The remark recalled in words and circumstance a statement by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who reluctantly planned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941: "I fear that all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill it with a desire for vengeance."

Earlier in the day, the president's top aides flooded the airwaves, talking tough, warning that a response to the attacks might not come soon and that it would require a multipronged effort, including diplomatic and economic measures.

"It's not a matter of days or weeks; it's years," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said. "It will take a broad, sustained effort that will use our diplomatic, our political, our economic, our financial strength, as well as our military strength and unquestionably unconventional techniques."

Vice President Dick Cheney revealed that Bush on Tuesday ordered F-16 fighter jets to shoot down any commercial aircraft over Washington that seemed to threaten the nation's capital.

"If they wouldn't pay any attention to instructions to move away from the city, as a last resort our pilots were authorized to take them out," Cheney said, speaking from Camp David, where he was moved last week for security reasons.

Other fighter aircraft were patrolling the skies from New York to Washington after the attack. Those patrols have been expanded to 26 bases that are able to scramble fighter jets within 15 minutes if there is another airborne threat.

"The possibility clearly exists that there could be additional terrorists out there," Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Bin Laden issued a statement yesterday denying involvement in the attacks. "I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation," said the statement, broadcast by Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite channel.

Bin Laden said he was used to the United States accusing him every time "its many enemies strike at it."

Bush brushed off the denial, saying there is strong evidence that bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda (the Base), were behind last week's attacks by hijacked American passenger jets.

"No question he is the prime suspect, no question about that," Bush said on his return to the White House.

Bush reaffirmed his vow to track the terrorists down. Cheney went further, hinting that bin Laden could face assassination, which is barred by a 1976 presidential executive order. Asked on Meet the Press whether he would like to have bin Laden's "head on a platter," the vice president replied, "I would take it today."

Pakistan, which agreed under strong pressure Saturday to cooperate fully with the new U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign, sent the delegation to meet Taliban leaders in Kandahar rather than Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. Kandahar is where the movement's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is based.

CNN reported that the Pakistanis will convey an ultimatum warning that if bin Laden isn't handed over in three days, U.S. military action could follow. A Pakistani Embassy official in Washington said he could not confirm that.

"We will be urging the Taliban leadership ... to accede to the demand of the international community. The demand is to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crimes that have been committed [and to] hand over the person that they are harboring, Osama bin Laden, so that he is brought to justice," Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, said on CNN.

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