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U.S. could hit countries besides Afghanistan



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top White House officials Sunday would not rule out the possibility that Iraq might also be subject to U.S. military action in the campaign against terrorism.

But they indicated that the Bush administration's priority is targeting Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for playing host to the suspected terrorist.

"The president made clear in his speech on Thursday night that this is a broad campaign," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"Now, there has to be an initial phase to this campaign. And the initial phase focuses on the al Qaeda network and the country that harbors them most nearly, which is the Taliban and Afghanistan."

As the campaign unfolds, Rice said, the administration would "look at where terrorism exists ... and go after all of those bases for terrorism."

Some lawmakers have called on the United States to include Iraq in any military action, believing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has supported terrorist acts against America.

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Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, said he believed American forces may be "right close" to such an attack.

Speaking on CNN, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would not say whether he believes Iraq had a role in the September 11 attacks against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

"The only thing I would say is we should not leave out and we have not left out where any of this leads to," said Shelby.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said there is no hard evidence yet that Iraq played a direct role in the September 11 attacks in which four commercial jets were hijacked and deliberately crashed.

"Well, there are some reports of linkages, but not to the extent that I would say today there is a clear link. But we're looking for links and we're watching it very, very carefully," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Powell said Hussein has long been considered "a potential source of terrorist activity" and stressed the United States would take "no options off the table."

"We have no illusions about Saddam Hussein," Powell said. "He means us no good. He means the region no good. ... And, as you know, we always have the ability to strike if that seems to be the appropriate thing."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered similar comments and hinted the U.S. approach to Iraq might hinge on that country's future behavior as it relates to terrorism.

"This is not an Afghan problem; this is a worldwide problem of terrorist networks. And let there be no doubt about it, that al Qaeda network is in at least 60 countries, and they are just one of many networks," Rumsfeld said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

He cited Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Libya as nations that have "harbored and assisted terrorist organizations."

"As the president said, what we're looking at today is how are those states going to behave going forward," Rumsfeld said.

The United States began deploying troops, ships and aircraft, including heavy bombers, to bases overseas last week, raising the prospect of a U.S. strike against Afghanistan.

A second round of deployments awaits Rumsfeld's signature, a Pentagon spokesman told CNN on Saturday, but Rumsfeld avoided questions Sunday about that order.

The Pentagon is not disclosing how many planes are involved, where they are going or when they are departing from bases in the United States.

"What we've been doing is getting our capabilities located, positioned, arranged around the world so that at that point where the president decides that he has a set of things he would like done, that we will be in a position to carry those things out," he said.

Asked about the possible use of nuclear weapons, Rumsfeld would not rule them out, but he seemed to suggest their use is unlikely.

"The United States, to my knowledge, has never ruled out the use of nuclear weapons," Rumsfeld said.

"We have always said, if you'll think back to the Cold War, that we would not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons, because there was overwhelming conventional capability that we felt that would add to the deterrent. And so we have never done that."

Speaking on the same program, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said the use of such weapons was "not necessary."

"In other words, I think we should note that we have weapons now, precision weapons, and of the kind that would probably address this kind of a threat, which is specific small groups of people in remote places, without having to use nuclear weapons," McCain said.

As they have for days, Bush aides told Americans to prepare for a long battle, one that would be fought on multiple fronts with various personnel, including the military. And they said the battle would require sacrifices by the American people.

"War is war, and there will be casualties," Powell said on NBC.

There have been reports of disagreements between the State and Defense departments over how to fight this new war.

The State Department is said to favor narrowly targeting al Qaeda to keep an international consensus together. The Pentagon reportedly favors a wider military response that would hit at terrorist targets in a variety of countries, including Iraq.

Speaking with reporters later, Rumsfeld downplayed reports of dissension between him Powell.

"There is no question but that he and the president and I are all in agreement that coalitions are enormously valuable," Rumsfeld said.

But, he said, "the mission determines the coalition, and the coalition must not be permitted to determine the mission.

"We are going to have different countries and different people in different countries supporting us with respect to these activities and possibly not those. They're going to support -- others -- still a different group will support us with a totally different set of activities," he said.

At Camp David, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush presided over a ceremony at which the American flag was raised to full staff after more than a week of official mourning.






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