U.S. woos ex-adversaries, estranged friends to fight terror
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The business of assembling a coalition to battle terrorism has U.S. diplomats seeking pledges of support from longtime allies, former adversaries and estranged friends.
A senior Western diplomat told CNN on Friday that U.S. officials were moving to drop some trade and economic sanctions against both Pakistan and India -- sanctions meant to deter them from pursuing their nuclear weapons programs. Congress is also expected to discuss the issue of helping Pakistan retire its $40 billion debt to overseas lenders.
The moves are meant partly to bolster the military government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, which has agree to share information, allow use of its airspace and provide logistical support for the U.S. military in a potential attack against Afghanistan.
"We need a strong partner. His strength depends on the strength of his society. That means economic revival," the diplomatic source said.
Pakistan was a key Cold War ally of the United States and the staging area for American support of the Afghan mujehedeen that fought the Soviets from 1979-89. But since the Soviet collapse, the United States has distanced itself from Pakistan.
President Bush demanded Thursday night that Afghanistan hand over Islamic militant leader Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in September 11's terror attacks on New York and Washington, or face U.S. reprisals. Musharraf's cooperation has angered many in Pakistan's large fundamentalist Muslim population.
Demonstrations and strikes after Friday's prayers left three people dead in Karachi, including a storekeeper reportedly beaten to death for refusing to close his shop. But the demonstrations did not draw as many people as some observers expected.
In his address Thursday night, Bush emphasized that the U.S. struggle is against terrorists, not Islam. It will depend on another key ally -- Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites -- to help spread that news. Saudi Arabia played a pivotal role in 1990-91 Persian Gulf conflict, and the Bush administration is again looking to the kingdom and its neighbors in the Arabian Penninsula, the Persian Gulf and North Africa to join the new coalition.
It was the deployment of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War that sparked bin Laden's anti-American campaign. He considered it an affront to Islam, and his opposition to the American presence -- and the Saudi monarchy that invited the U.S. in -- led to his eventual exile.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal, said his government would contribute "everything that is within our capacity to fight this scourge of terrorism." U.S. officials are looking to Saudi Arabia to share intelligence on bin Laden and his terrorist network, open its airspace to the U.S. and allow the Americans to operate from its own bases on Saudi soil.
The Organization of American States offered a declaration of solidarity from its 34 members, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sought the support of its Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. The committee was established two years ago with a mandate "to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism."
"We have this tool, we need it, we must use it," Powell said. "We are in this worldwide campaign for the long haul. ... We have endured an enormous tragedy; we will overcome."
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jixuan was in Washington for talks with the Bush administration on Friday. Tang said Beijing already has begun cooperating with U.S. officials, and "such cooperation will continue into the future."
"Our attitude on the question of terrorism has always been clear-cut and consistent," he said. "We firmly oppose and strongly condemn all forms of terrorism and all their evil acts."
And even Russia, which lost nearly 15,000 troops battling U.S.-backed Afghan guerrillas during the Soviet occupation, has offered its assistance.
"Even as we speak, the exchanges of information are under way related to the activities of different extremists and terrorist organizations, including in Afghanistan," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Wednesday.
So far, Ivanov said the United States hasn't asked Moscow to provide military assistance, or consider the possibility of sending Russian troops back into Afghanistan. But hoping to capitalize on the Russians' bitter experience, the Bush administration is looking for Russian cooperation in a number of areas, including sharing knowledge of Afghanistan's mountainous, rugged terrain and helping persuade former Soviet republics in Central Asia to join an international campaign against terrorism.
Ivanov told Powell that Russia would not stand in the way of cooperation between the U.S. and Central Asia. Powell said the Russians -- who are battling their own Islamic fundamentalist uprising in Chechnya -- want nothing in return.
"We talked about all these items, as we always do -- missile defense, ABM, Chechnya. But they presented no linkages between that and the current incident," he said.
Although the U.S. has so far received the full support of its NATO allies and limited backing from Middle Eastern states, some observers warned that Bush might have a harder time mobilizing a coalition against other terrorist groups "with global reach" that he threatened Thursday night.
Administration officials say anyone and everyone, including Iraq, will be fair game, if evidence of support for terrorism is there. Without that evidence, however, one Arab diplomat warned that widening the circle beyond Afghanistan will erode support for the coalition.
Some prominent U.S. conservatives urged Bush to make a "determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power" even if Iraq can't be linked directly to the New York and Washington attacks. But observers say broadening the anti-terror campaign to include other targets beyond bin Laden and his network in Afghanistan is a potential land mine.
"Putting together a coalition against Afghanistan is easy because everyone hates the Taliban, including Iran, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia," said Geoffrey Kemp, a former South Asian specialist in the Reagan administration and an analyst for the Nixon Center on International Relations. "Putting together a coalition against Iraq? A totally different story."
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