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Powell: U.S. will link bin Laden, al Qaeda to attacks

Colin Powell
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States will be able to publish a report linking Osama bin Laden to the terror attacks.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he is "absolutely convinced" that the al Qaeda terror network headed by Osama bin Laden is responsible for the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Powell, speaking on "Meet the Press," said the United States will be able to publish a report linking bin Laden to the attacks. He said bin Laden and al Qaeda must be targeted in the first phase of the campaign against terror.

"The network has to be ripped up and brought to justice," he said.

When asked if the "full-scale campaign" to fight terror could trigger a popular uprising in Pakistan, where bin Laden is popular, Powell said, "it's unfortunate that there are Muslims who feel that way" but bin Laden has "demonized himself."

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Powell said the terror suspect is "not someone to be admired. ... He is someone to be condemned as against civilization as we know it.

"He is a murderer. ... He has murdered thousands of people from around the world. ... That's what he should be seen as, a murderer."

Powell said President Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan made a courageous decision in supporting the United States.

When asked how he would rate the Taliban's army, Powell said the force, while not modern, has to be taken seriously because of its experience in the kind of warfare that is typical of Afghanistan. He said military leaders have a good idea of how to operate in that country, and the campaign won't be a conventional conflict.

Lives at risk?

Powell warned that U.S. lives may be placed at risk in the campaign against terrorism.

"War is war and there will be casualties," said Powell, who pointed out "there is no such thing as zero-casualty conflict" in a fight like this one, but stressed people should not assume there will be a large-scale conflict.

Powell disputed a report that the Saudi Arabians are denying the United States the use of an air base. He said the Saudis have been "very responsive" to all the requests that have been made of them by the United States, and Powell said he wouldn't go into detail about what has not been asked.

Powell said part of the campaign will focus on pursuing al Qaeda's financial support. He said it is easy in Europe and the United States to raise money for dissident causes, and the government is focusing on non-governmental organizations and charitable groups.

The secretary of state was asked if Syria and Iran, who have sponsored terrorism, have a chance for a fresh start with the United States.

"That might well be the case," Powell said. But he added they can not oppose one kind of terror and support another.

Powell said that although there are some reports linking the attacks and the harboring of terrorists to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, he could not say there is a clear link.

"(Hussein) means us no good. He means the region no good," said Powell. "We always consider him to be a potential source of terrorist activity."

About news reports Sunday that the Taliban has reported bin Laden is missing, Powell said, "I don't know. I really can't answer that question. He might be, quote, missing, whatever that means. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to put credence into a Taliban report. The Taliban may be trying to find a way to get themselves out of the terrible box they are in. I don't know."

Powell stressed that if bin Laden were caught, that would be good but not the end of it. Thousands of bin Laden's lieutenants across the world have to be hunted down also, he said.

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