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Bush administration puts pressure on Pakistan

Osama bin Laden
Secretary of State Colin Powell has named Osama bin Laden as a leading suspect  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has put extraordinary pressure on Pakistan to find those responsible for the terrorist attacks against the United States, bring them to justice and assist with a potential U.S. retaliatory attack.

A senior administration official said Pakistani leaders were asked to close their border with Afghanistan, stop supplying fuel to the Taliban government there, provide any information on suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden and allow U.S. war planes access to Pakistani air space in the event of a military strike.

Secretary of State Colin Powell went further than any member of the Bush administration in naming bin Laden as a leading suspect in Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Speaking about high level contacts between the U.S. and Pakistan since Tuesday's attacks, Powell said "we're looking at those terrorist organizations who have the kind of capacity to conduct the actions of September 11. We haven't yet publicly identified the organization we believe was responsible, but when you look at the list of candidates one resides in that region."

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When asked if bin Laden was that "candidate," Powell replied: "Yes."

U.S. government sources have said they are "confident" the evidence in the case will lead to bin Laden, the alleged terrorist who has declared jihad, or holy war, against the United States and is based in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is one of only three countries that have officially recognized the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan. The United States wants Afghanistan to expel bin Laden and stop allowing terrorist training in the country.

In a Tuesday night address to the nation, President Bush said, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage Thursday presented the Pakistani ambassador to the United States with what Powell called "a specific list" of concrete steps the United States wants Pakistan to agree to as a measure of its cooperation.

Senior State Department officials said the list included several steps:

1) to share information about what Pakistan knows about "this action" and the al Qaeda organization operated by bin Laden; 2) to take steps to cut off all activities and transits of al Qaeda members in and around Pakistan; 3) to respond to further requests to United States will be making of Pakistan

The meeting was one of several discussions between U.S. and Pakistani officials Thursday.

Sober discussions

Earlier in the day, Pakistan's military ruler, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin.

Powell said the United States was having a "sober discussion with the Pakistani government," in advance of a phone call with Musharraf that he had Thursday afternoon.

Senior State Department officials told CNN that the call was "very positive," and that Musharraf told Powell he was looking forward to receiving the list of steps. He also "reiterated Pakistan's complete support" for the United States in the fight against terrorism.

After the phone call Musharraf issued a statement reiterating Pakistan's "unstinted cooperation in the flight against terrorism."

"Pakistan is committing all of its resources in an effort coordinated with the United States to locate and punish those involved in this horrific act," Musharraf said. He issued a similar statement on Wednesday after the Pakistani National Security Council held a special meeting on how to cooperate with the United States.

Musharraf's stand is seen as increasingly important as the Bush administration works to build an international consensus against the perpetrators of the attacks and for military retaliation. With Pakistan's support, Afghanistan becomes further isolated if evidence in the case conclusively points to bin Laden.

Sanctions

The United States has little leverage to use against Pakistan, with a host of sanctions already in place against the country. But Powell indicated that the United States could help Pakistan if the government is willing to cooperate.

"They're sanctioned up to the eyeballs and they don't have that much aid now," Powell said. "But I think we have been exploring with the Pakistani government many ways that we can move forward in the relationship and we want to do so."

Rubble
Musharraf said the attack raised the struggle against terrorism "to a new level"  

The United States is also asking Russia for help in dealing with Afghanistan. Armitage will travel to Moscow next week to hold a special meeting of the U.S.-Russia working group on Afghanistan.

Moscow is also concerned about terrorist training in Afghanistan that is spilling over into Russia's neighbors in Central Asia.

Russia, as part of the Soviet Union, invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and fought alongside the Marxist government in a nine-year war against Afghan mudjahadin. Knowledge of the country gained in that fight could be very useful in assisting the United States with a retaliatory attack.

Powell said that in discussions with Russian officials, Moscow appeared ready to have "active discussions."

"I am sure they will be helpful on many things," Powell said. "They have a great deal of experience in Afghanistan and we will draw on all of that experience."

Powerless

Dr. Ravan Farhadi, Northern Alliance ambassador to the United Nations and an Afghan national opposed to the Taliban, said the alliance is in favor of the United States putting pressure on the Pakistani government, particularly the military, to stop its support of the Taliban.

He said Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is responsible for supplying the Taliban with arms, military needs and has sent armed men to side with the Taliban.

"The Taliban without the Pakistani intelligence would be absolutely powerless and would not protect Osama bin Laden," he said.

Asked for his response to Pakistan's pledges to aid the United States, Farhadi said, "We have great doubts." He said the military intelligence -- not the government of Musharraf -- controls the policy of Pakistan toward Afghanistan.

"The Taliban are nothing without bin Laden," he said.

--From CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King, State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel, Producer Elise Labott, Producer Homeyra Mokhtar and Producer Homa Naderi


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