Herald News Services
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration on Tuesday advanced its diplomatic effort to wage war against terrorist Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, securing a renunciation of the Taliban by Saudi Arabia and Russian consent to use former Soviet air bases for U.S. strikes.
The Saudi kingdom’s severing of relations with Afghanistan’s radical Islamic government and permission from Russia’s defense minister for the United States to use military facilities in Tajikistan came as the Group of Seven, the world’s wealthiest nations, agreed to join the United States in freezing terrorist assets.
Despite brewing tensions with Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, Bush pronounced himself "most pleased" at the Saudi move and a "strong statement" of support from Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was followed by Tuesday’s permission to use the old Soviet bases.
"The coalition of legitimate governments and freedom-loving people is strong," Bush said. "People will contribute in different ways to this coalition. … The duties of the coalition may alter, but the mission won’t alter. And that is to rout out and destroy international terrorism."
The diplomatic developments came as Bush and congressional leaders met at the White House to grapple with whether to push forward with an economic stimulus plan. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and former Clinton treasury secretary Robert Rubin, meeting behind closed doors with the Senate Finance Committee, cautioned that any stimulus package should be temporary but big enough to make an impact, as much as $100 billion.
Consumed by war planning, the White House announced that Bush’s 10-day trip to Asia next month will be shortened. Bush will still visit Shanghai Oct. 20-21 for the annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, but will put off stops in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. As U.S. troop numbers continue to build in central Asia, Bush and his aides continued to leave ambiguous the extent of U.S. war aims.
The ambiguity reflects the sensitive diplomacy the administration is conducting as it seeks to win support from Muslim nations against bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign minister warned at a news conference that "we must not make the blunder of trying to foist a government on the people of Afghanistan."
Bush and his aides continued to outline a flexible alliance that would allow different nations to participate in different activities based on domestic constraints. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke at the Pentagon of "revolving coalitions" that would "evolve and change over time and military sensitivity."
Rumsfeld also said the military had called up additional reserves and blocked imminent retirements to prepare for a protracted conflict that could last years.
Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell made a rare joint appearance on Capitol Hill, spending two hours providing top-secret briefings to Senate and House members.
In another interview, Powell said that if the Taliban regime in Afghanistan hands over bin Laden and rips up the al-Qaida terrorism network, it will be spared and may even receive Western assistance.
"If they did that, we wouldn’t be worrying about whether they are the regime in power or not," Powell said.
"If they don’t come to their senses, we will direct more actions against Taliban," he said.
The former Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff played down the idea of a U.S. military invasion.
"It’s a tough place to fight conventional battles," he said.
And yet, Powell said, "you can be sure we are thinking of all the ways to make them think properly."
Among them, he suggested, was encouraging existing divisions within the Islamic fundamentalist movement. Also, the Taliban has been struggling against resistance groups within Afghanistan.
In other developments: