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Osama seeking nukes, says Bush
WARSAW: US President George W Bush on Tuesday warned for the first time that the al-Qaeda network of suspected September 11 terror strike mastermind Osama Bin Laden seeks chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Bush, speaking via satellite to Eastern European leaders attending an anti-terrorism summit here, also said the group posed the same threat to freedom as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union's Iron Curtain.
"We see the same intolerance of dissent, the same mad global ambitions, the same brutal determination to control every life and all of life. We have seen the true nature of these terrorists in the nature of their attacks," he said.
The president thanked the gathered nations for their "practical" efforts to combat terrorism and, in remarks apparently aimed at the rest of the world, said the campaign requires "more than sympathy, or words" from every nation.
"The defeat of terror requires an international coalition of unprecedented scope and cooperation. It demands the sincere, sustained actions of many nations against a network of terror cells and bases and funding," he said from the ornate Blue Room in the presidential mansion.
Bush also called on Afghans unhappy with their Taliban rulers to "help us locate the terrorists" hidden in the Central Asian nation, saying: "The sooner we find them, the better the people's lives will be."
The president told the assembled leaders that al-Qaeda cells are operating in more than 60 countries -- including some in Central and Eastern Europe -- and warned the group seeks "to destabilize entire nations and regions."
"They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation; and, eventually, to civilization itself," said the president.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer later declined to offer specific evidence that bin Laden had sought to acquire such weapons, or how close the United States thought the Saudi-born dissident was to getting them.
"It's a source of concern and that's why the president raised it," he told reporters, pointing them to public statements by US officials and bin Laden himself declaring that acquiring such arms is a "religious duty."
Bush ordered air and missile strikes on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers October 7, after the Islamist militia refused to hand over bin Laden, whom he blames for a terror onslaught against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The president on Monday launched an all-out diplomatic offensive to bolster support behind those reprisals and the global US-led effort to stamp out terrorism, as well as rebut mounting criticism that the attacks have made little progress but cost a great deal in civilian casualties.
"Our efforts are directed at terrorists and military targets because unlike our enemies, we value human life. We do not target innocent people, and we grieve for the difficult times the Taliban have brought to the people of their own country," he said.
US-driven military action has destroyed many terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, has severed communications, taken out air defenses, and is now battering the Taliban's front lines, he said.
The president also pledged to outline "my vision of our common responsibilities in the war on terror" during his first speech to the UN General Assembly on November 10.
"I will put every nation on notice that these duties involve more than sympathy or words. No nation can be neutral in this conflict, because no civilized nation can be secure in a world threatened by terror," he said.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 06, 2001