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U.S. Says Won't Topple Taliban

By George Gedda, Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001; 11:40 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON The United States will not attempt to topple the Taliban movement in Afghanistan but does plan to take action against the radical Islamic militia for harboring terrorists, the White House said Tuesday.

"The objective here is to protect people from terrorism," presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer said. He added that the word "topple" has a political implication about replacing one government with a different government. "The goals are not lined up in that sense," he said.

He reaffirmed the goal of punishing the Taliban for its role in providing shelter to terrorists an objective established shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "There's no question the Taliban is harboring terrorists right now," he said.

Fleischer denied that the United States is bargaining with other nations to win support of the anti-terrorism coalition. "There are no blank checks," he said, adding that countries that offer cooperation are doing so because it is wise. "It's not just the United States concerned about terrorists here ... . There's an overlapping of interests," Fleischer said.

As for the support being offered by Russia to the anti-terrorism effort,Fleischer denied that was part of a deal under which Washington would refrain from criticizing Russia over abuses in Chechnya, where an Islamic insurgency has been under way for years. "On Chechnya, the principles of adherence to human rights is always important," he said.

He added that the "threat of terrorism is a threat Russia faces as well. We're always mindful of combatting terrorism in a way that is consistent with concern about human rights."

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was planning to discuss a possible role for Japanese forces as a nonbelligerent in the event of a U.S. military response to the terrorist attacks. Koizumi, who was preceded here last week by French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, met with President Bush at the White House Tuesday.

Koizumi has raised the possibility of contributing logistical support and medical aid if Bush orders military reprisals against the perpetrators of the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. Japan's postwar constitution imposes sharp limits on the country's ability to become involved in overseas conflicts. Koizumi said he may seek legislation to loosen current constraints but he made clear he sees no battlefield role for Japanese forces.

Two Japanese newspapers have reported Japan will send warships to the Indian Ocean as early as this week to carry out intelligence and surveillance missions. The squadron may accompany the USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier that left its base near Tokyo on Friday, the reports said.

Japan and six other industrialized countries also have instructed their respective cabinets to specify measures to stem the flow of funds to violent extremists and enhance aviation security. They also took steps to tighten control of arms exports in a bid to reduce the terrorist threat.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was to receive Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero later in the day. Powell also planed separate closed-door meetings with senators and House members to share the administration's thoughts on a response to the terrorist attacks. The administration is attempting to hunt down Afghan-based Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks, and his allies.

On Monday, the Senate approved a House-passed agreement that effectively removes all trade barriers with Jordan, a close Arab friend of the United States. Jordan's King Abdullah II, who will visit Washington this week, has backed the U.S. anti-terrorist fight and "accordingly we should do whatever we can to reinforce Jordan's support," said the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

Officials were eager for a report from the British government on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Iran, the first trip of its kind to Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution. Iran has surprised U.S. officials by condemning the Sept. 11 attacks but said any coalition that emerges from the assaults should be U.N.-led rather than U.S.-led.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

-- Swissrose (, September 25, 2001




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