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Rumsfeld sees friction between Taliban, al Qaeda

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CBS' "Face the Nation" it was too soon to know how serious the differences were between al Qaeda and the Taliban.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan has created friction between members of the al Qaeda terrorist network and leaders of the ruling Taliban, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday.

"It appears that there is at least some reason to believe that there is a difference of view, competition, between [Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed] Omar and his immediate lieutenants and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants," Rumsfeld said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Also Sunday, top U.S. officials said they were taking seriously claims by bin Laden, made in a Pakistani newspaper interview, that he has weapons of mass destruction, though they expressed doubt that he has nuclear capability.

Rumsfeld said it is too soon to know how serious the differences may be between al Qaeda and the Taliban. But he told CBS there appear to be "differences as to who should be in command of what, differences as to where forces should be reinforced or not reinforced, differences as to where supplies should go."

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As to any access by al Qaeda to weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said that "there is no question" that bin Laden wants such capability but is unlikely to have it.

"On the other hand, with the determination they have, they may very well," he said. He added that "there is no doubt in my mind" al Qaeda would use weapons of mass destruction if they had them.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said bin Laden "has said that it's a religious duty to have weapons of mass destruction, so we're taking it very seriously,"

"We have no credible evidence that he has them at this point in time, but we're not going to take any chances," she said.

With the Northern Alliance making military advances on the ground in recent days, U.S. officials, including President Bush, have said they do not want opposition forces to move into the capital, Kabul, until an agreement is in place establishing a framework for a broad-based post-Taliban government that represents all of the country's rival ethnic groups.

U.S. officials indicated Sunday that one reason for this strategy is that they are trying to enlist Pashtun tribal forces in southern Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance is dominated by people from the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups rather than the Pashtuns, who constitute the largest ethnic group in the country.

"Our goal is to get the tribes in the south to oppose the Taliban," Rumsfeld told CBS. "They have been relatively quiet thus far. We need them to oppose the Taliban. Therefore, we need them to recognize that they're going to have a voice in the post-Taliban government."

Condoleezza Rice
Nationanl Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN that the Bush administration was taking Osama bin Laden's claims of nuclear capability seriously.  

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Pashtun leaders "are going to start taking a hard look ... [at] what the Taliban regime leadership is costing their country" with Northern Alliance battlefield successes.

"As we start to encourage those southern tribes, I think they might start deciding that there's a better life ahead by separating themselves from the Taliban," Powell said.

Abdullah Abdullah, the Northern Alliance's foreign minister, supported the U.S. position on Kabul in an interview on "Late Edition."

"Capturing Kabul is not just a military situation. There is a political importance and significance to it as well," he said. "It would be an ideal situation for us to have a broad agreement with different Afghan groups before entering Kabul. We do agree in that regard."


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