NATO: U.S. evidence 'compelling'
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson has said the U.S. has presented "compelling and conclusive" evidence that the terror attacks on the U.S. were the work of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
He said the proof offered at a classified briefing on Tuesday means that the 18 NATO nations now fully consider the attack on the United States as an attack on them all.
Robertson, who said the U.S. was still working on its response to the attacks, said: "It is clear that all roads lead to al Qaeda and pinpoint Osama bin Laden as having been involved in it."
A senior Bush administration source said the United States provided phone records and bank records involving al Qaeda members. This source said the records also spelled out a bin Laden link between the September 11 attacks and last year's attack on the USS Cole at the port of Aden, Yemen, as well as the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
The military alliance has now invoked Article 5 of its self-defense charter as a result -- for the first time in its 52-year history.
Robertson would not go into the details of the U.S.' evidence, but said the "facts were clear and compelling and point conclusively" to the role of the al Qaeda worldwide network, headed by Osama bin Laden and protected by the Taliban regime.
"It has now been determined that the September 11 attacks were directed from abroad," he added, saying Article 5 would be invoked as planned.
Article 5 -- which says that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all -- can only be invoked if it is proved an attack came from abroad.
Robertson said the U.S. was still "formulating" its response to the terror attacks, and NATO would continue to consult on its planned response.
"The U.S. is still developing its thinking," Robertson said. "They will come back to the alliance in due course when their plans are crystallized."
CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said that Robertson had been arguing "for some time" that clear evidence had existed to show al Qaeda's involvement in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But Oakley added, NATO's council meeting on Tuesday may have helped quieten some of the "complaints in NATO that they had not been told enough," at previous meetings.
NATO had not revealed any contingency plans "because the U.S. had not indicated what help it wants.
"We are not going to see a full NATO operation," Oakley said.
"This is going to be a United States-led operation with the practical involvement of a few NATO partners -- certainly Britain, perhaps France, and possibly something from one or two other countries.
"The fact that they don't all get engaged militarily does not mean that they are not satisfied with the evidence, or not fully in support," he added.
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