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Bush: Get bin Laden `dead or alive'
President Bush said Monday that the United States wants Osama bin Laden brought to justice "dead or alive," while an increasingly tense Taliban government in Afghanistan planned to convene a meeting of 1,000 key Islamic leaders Tuesday to decide how to respond if the U.S. attacks.
Amid reports that Taliban leaders were fleeing Kabul in anticipation of a U.S. attack, Pakistani diplomats delivered an ultimatum from Washington to hand over bin Laden, a millionaire Saudi dissident living in exile under protection of the Afghan government, or face the consequences.
The Pakistani delegation talked for three hours in the Afghan city of Kandahar with the Taliban's reclusive spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, emphasizing the threat of American military action. The emissaries emerged without a commitment that bin Laden would be turned over. They plan to press their case again in meetings in Kabul on Tuesday.
"There was no clear discussion on this particular topic," said Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutamaean. "The talks were positive. ..."
The United States returned to a semblance of normalcy Monday. Most workers returned to their jobs, Wall Street markets were back in business and baseball resumed its season. In a visit to the Pentagon, Bush said the American military will pay "any cost" to defend freedom and warned that the price for the war on terrorism would be high.
Bin Laden and the Taliban have denied involvement in last Tuesday's attacks. Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said it was possible the Taliban was unaware of the strength of international feeling against the rulers in the wake of the suicide missions on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and don't understand why Afghanistan would be the target of a U.S. military strike.
"My fear is perhaps the government and leadership are not fully aware of the storm that broke loose on Sept. 11," Sattar said, noting most of Afghanistan's information comes from primitive television and radio networks, and many of its Islamic fundamentalist leaders live in isolation.
The growing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with the bellicose rhetoric from the United States, drew suggestions of restraint from Europe, where leaders have pronounced themselves solidly beside Bush in his time of need but are cautious nonetheless about any incursions into notoriously difficult Afghanistan.
"We need to react with a cool head. It is not about revenge," said Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister. "In the end, we should not create more instability than was the case previously by our reactions."
"We have to assemble the evidence, present it and then pursue those responsible," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, treading the line between public support for the United States and the demands from political opponents in Britain to know exactly what kind of military response the United States has in mind before they offer support.
In the United States, the search for remains of the more than 5,000 feared dead at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, both hit last week by commercial airliners hijacked by terrorists, settled into a routine. Some volunteer crews were sent home. Fewer than 200 bodies have been found in New York. About 188 are believed dead at the Pentagon.
The New York Stock Exchange reopened amid echoes of "God Bless America," huzzahs from its leaders and hopes that stock investors would react patriotically. After the traditional starting bells were rung by New York City firefighters, who were applauded wildly, the market lost hundreds of points, despite a Federal Reserve decision to slash interest rates by a half point as a way to pump up the economy.
Among the industries hardest hit Monday were the airlines, many of which had already announced huge layoffs after the attacks. The industry is seeking a $20 billion rescue plan from Congress, and the Bush administration said it would consider it.
The FBI pressed its investigation as Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft warned there still could be teams of suicide terrorists free in America. So far, 49 people have been detained, most of them on immigration charges.
Justice Department officials suggested their investigation is being hamstrung by legal restrictions on the ability to investigate, prosecute and punish terrorists. Ashcroft is expected to send Congress on Tuesday a list of requests for tools he says are necessary to fight terrorism, though some suggest these measures are heavy-handed and unnecessary.
Details are sketchy, but Ashcroft plans to request a greater ability to seize terrorists' assets, to toughen penalties for harboring terrorists and to make it a crime to provide financial help to a terrorist. The attorney general also will ask for greater wiretapping authority.
"If terrorism has not had a priority in the criminal justice system previously, it's time for us to understand that it needs to be a priority in the criminal justice system now," Ashcroft said.
The attorney general added that he is asking Congress to pass "these important anti-terrorism measures" this week. But the Justice Department is meeting resistance from those who see this appeal as an attempt to use the current climate of fear to push through heavy-handed measures that infringe on privacy and civil liberties.
In addition, the government planned to pursue the terrorists on the financial front as part of Bush's declaration of war.
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the U.S. would be pursuing the assets of terrorists by setting up a Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center. The Treasury Department already has an agency that tracks the asset of foreign terrorists. It was not clear whether O'Neill was referring to that office or would be setting up another one.
In Pennsylvania, First Lady Laura Bush told relatives and friends of those who died when a fourth hijacked airliner crashed near Pittsburgh that the nation shared their grief.
"You are not alone," the first lady said in a visit to Indian Lake, Pa., 2 miles from the site where United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 aircraft, crashed last Tuesday.
"In hours like this, we learn that our faith is an active faith, that we are called to serve and care for one another, and to bring hope and comfort where there is despair and sorrow. All of this is the work of the living."
Demand for justice
If the first lady's role was to bring a sense of comfort to a tragedy, the president aggressively pushed his demand for justice, evoking a Wild West wanted poster as evidence of the government's determination to hold bin Laden accountable for the terrorist assault:
"There's an old poster out West that said, `Wanted, dead or alive.'"
Bush's rhetoric, aimed directly at bin Laden and his Afghan hosts, has been growing increasingly bellicose since the Sept. 11 incident.
But he reached out Monday to urge everyone to treat American Muslims with respect, saying, "The face of terror is not the true face of Islam."
The FBI is investigating about 40 reports of violence against Arabs.