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U.S. Gains Ground in Coalition Building

Aired October 5, 2001 - 17:05   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We were talking earlier about Donald Rumsfeld and the secretary's trip overseas, building support for President Bush's war on terrorism, gained limited backing today from the central Asian country of Uzbekistan.

To the Pentagon now and CNN's Bob Franken, tracking this story throughout the day with us -- Bob,

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Bill, probably the most intriguing part of the trip was what you just mentioned, the stop in Uzbekistan, and the agreement that the United States can use one of the air bases in that country.

Remember, this is a country that was a member of the Soviet Union, one of the republics in the Soviet Union. And now the United States is going to be basing troops there. The tenth mountain, division from Fort Drum, New York, as a matter of fact, is on the way to Uzbekistan, about a thousand members of that unit, in any case, to set up in that base.

Now, there are some limitations. The Uzbekistan government said that only the use for humanitarian purposes, such as accompanies any sort of food movement that is going on to Afghanistan, or for search- and-rescue. That is to say, if combat units from the United States need to be found and rescued, presumably in Afghanistan, that could be used.

But the government made it very clear that on its border with Afghanistan, there might be an expansion, that there might be an agreement that combat operations could come out of there. As a matter of fact, Uzbekistan government is hoping to get the United States, according to the defense sources, to set up permanent military installations there. That was the stop in Uzbekistan.

Added to this trip was a fifth country: Turkey, and that, of course, is what we're told is the last part of the secretary's trip. Of course, they could always add something else. There is sort of an ad-lib nature to this. But Rumsfeld has been visiting Turkey, talked with the prime minister there, talked with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman. Of course, each country has its different kind of pressures.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We recognize that every country has its own circumstance. It has its own neighborhood, it has its own history, and each country will make a judgment as to the kinds of ways that it can be helpful in dealing with the problem of international terrorism. And we do not make demands, we do not have any view, other than that each country should decide for itself, how it can best help. Some help in one way, others help in another way.


FRANKEN: Now, Rumsfeld is presumably heading back to the United States and, presumably, would participate in a meeting on Sunday of the National Security Council. President Bush is going to participate in that meeting. He is at Camp David, he'll be doing it by videophone. But Rumsfeld will have quite a bit to report to his colleagues in the administration -- Bill?

HEMMER: And, Bob, quickly, a thousand troops initially, but still, optimism possibly down the road the position could increase in Uzbekistan, correct?

FRANKEN: That the number of troops could increase and that their functions could increase. Of course, the key thing to remember is that Uzbekistan borders on Afghanistan, which of course, seems to be the target for all the military planning that's going on right now.

HEMMER: Bob, thanks. Bob Franken at the Pentagon.

Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, believes he has good reason for the cautious approach that Bob was just talking about. There's been an Islamic revolt in his own country, and the border with Afghanistan, stretching for about 80 miles, is almost impossible to control.

CNN's Alessio Vinci now, in the capital city of Tashkent.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Karimov is very much concerned with his own terrorism threat against this country. The IMU, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, has in the past threatened Mr. Karimov. They have been responsible for a series of bomb attacks in Tashkent, and therefore Mr. Karimov still believes that they are still a threat.

He also believes that they are operating out of Afghanistan, and should he be considered too close to a U.S. military operation in that country, he fears that that group could retaliate against him. When we asked President Karimov why he would not allow U.S. special troops to operate out of Uzbekistan, he basically said that this country is not ready yet -- he said "yet" -- meaning perhaps that eventually in the future he would consider the possibility of allowing more than just search-and-rescue operation, or just humanitarian missions to be deployed, to be organized from Uzbekistan.

But he was very, very clear today in stressing the fact that so far the only thing Uzbekistan is ready to do is to help the U.S., in terms of opening up its airspace and allowing them to use one air base for humanitarian missions. But he was also extremely clear that for the time being, there is absolutely no chance that any kind of military, special military operations can take place, can operate from Uzbekistan.

HEMMER: Alessio Vinci there in Tashkent. We've been told very little about the Uzbek base the U.S. will be using, but what we do know is that the base is about 300 miles from the capital city. And as you just heard, the U.S. will use that base for possible search- and-rescue operations, and for humanitarian reasons, such as food drops inside of Afghanistan for the Afghan people.

In neighboring Pakistan now, another key player in possible U.S. military action. Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair again held talks today with Pakistan's President in Islamabad -- a key meeting there.

CNN's Walter Rodgers with more.


WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair came to Pakistan playing the heavyweight in the western alliance. Meeting with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Blair promised Pakistan's help in the war against terrorism will be rewarded. And almost within the shouting distance of Afghanistan, he renewed the West's ultimatum to the Taliban.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: They should yield up Osama bin Laden and his associates, or they become the people shielding him. And therefore, for us, people who are a legitimate enemy.

RODGERS: The Pakistani president agreed publicly for the first time that the West's case against bin Laden is compelling. But he tiptoed around the idea of Pakistan, a Muslim country, entering a military alliance with the West.

PRES. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PAKISTAN: We have agreed to give the cooperation in the field of information exchange and intelligence, and we've also agreed to give the utilization of our airspace to move against terrorism in Afghanistan.

RODGERS: Before leaving to go on to India, Tony Blair quoted from the Holy Koran, and again said this is not a fight with Muslims, nor with the Afghan people.

Not far from the Pakistani capital, however, Islamist radicals did not see it that way. After Friday prayers in Rawalpindi, hard- liners mustered a sizable demonstration, flexing the political muscle of the streets, and letting President Musharraf know they do not like his new friendliness with the United States and Britain.

They ripped apart this effigy of President Bush, and they repeatedly burned Bush in effigy throughout the demonstrations. This, as they shouted, "death to America." Upwards of 20,000 Islamist radicals protested, all of them glorifying Osama bin Laden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Osama bin Laden is a great man. He is a brave man. We like our Muslim countries.

RODGERS: Perhaps more than anything else, this spoke to the volatility of Pakistani streets. But it fell far short of any threat to the government for now.

(on camera): Mobilizing people on the streets during and after Friday prayers is not difficult for radical Islamist leaders. Still, demonstrations might be more meaningful if they had taken place on work days. But so far, most working class Pakistanis are still sitting it out on the sidelines.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.





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