Terrorism can't be beaten by force alone, U.N. told

Grievances of Muslims must be met, leader says

September 23, 2004|By COX NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - President Bush thanked Pakistan's leader yesterday for conducting aggressive military strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida strongholds, but the Pakistani warned that global terrorism cannot be defeated by force alone.

In a speech at the United Nations, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said "an iron curtain" threatens to divide the Islamic and Western worlds, much as East and West faced off during the Cold War, unless more is done to address Muslim grievances.

He noted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the gap between rich and poor nations, and the repression of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Musharraf, a key U.S. partner in the fight against al-Qaida, said the group's efforts have been "contained and disrupted" by military attacks and police work. Force, though, is insufficient unless accompanied by long-term efforts that strike at "the root of the problem," Musharraf said.

"Action has to be taken," he said, "before an iron curtain finally descends between the West and the Islamic world."

Musharraf spoke shortly after meeting with Bush, who addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. In their hourlong meeting, Bush got an update on Pakistan's efforts to tighten the noose on key Taliban and al-Qaida leaders in remote areas near the Afghan border.

Three years after his al-Qaida network conducted the Sept. 11 attacks and Bush sent troops to get him "dead or alive," Osama bin Laden remains at large. His capture in the weeks before the Nov. 2 presidential elections would mark a political coup for Bush and a security achievement for the country.

"We all would like to find Osama bin Laden tomorrow. But he is pretty good at remaining hidden," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told reporters in New York. Powell said bin Laden "is quite isolated. ... Nevertheless, he is a danger."

About 200 Pakistani troops have been killed in a summer offensive aimed at strangling and destroying Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan's northeast region of Wazuristan. The area is controlled by tribal warlords, whose authority has not been challenged for nearly a century, when present-day Pakistan was part of the British empire.

"This is where many of the key leaders of al-Qaida and Taliban command are hiding," said a senior administration official. "It's General Musharraf's assessment, and I think we agree, that they're keeping these terrorist elements on their back heel and taking the fight right to their headquarters."

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