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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Powell to Visit Pakistan and India

Aired October 15, 2001 - 06:10   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been saying this morning, Secretary of State Colin Power is on his way there to Islamabad, where he's going to be meeting with President Musharraf there to talk about the operations under way in Afghanistan.

Let's check in now with our Major Garrett -- he's got the view from Washington, the town -- where actually the president has actually shipped off Colin Powell -- good morning Major. What's the word?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

No official word from the White House this morning on that report that Tom Mintier just gave us about the possibility that Secretary of State Powell might meet with those who would seek to form a coalition government -- a post-Taliban coalition government in Afghanistan.

But it is worth pointing out that the United States has made clear over and over again, it will not choose who rules in Afghanistan, if there is, in fact, a post-Taliban government, but that it wants that government to be broad-based ethnically and free of terrorism and one that wants to build an economically viable country in the aftermath of the U.S. military campaign. And the president made clear last week he would be willing to offer United States' financial support through the U.N. to accomplish just that goal.

But also on the secretary of state's trip to both Islamabad and to New Delhi, Kashmir will be a crucial issue. The secretary of state will thank both Pakistan and India for their cooperation in the coalition against terrorism, but also urge both countries to minimize tensions over that disputed region. It's going to be harder than it first might appear.

On October 1, a bomb exploded outside the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly killing 40. India believes that was an act of Pakistani terrorism. Pakistan has denied that. That has left tensions very raw between the two countries. Colin Powell will be urging both sides to minimize those tensions -- will not be bringing any solution to that long-running dispute, but urge them to keep things quiet, at least while the U.S. military campaign continues in Afghanistan -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Major, we heard President Bush saying yesterday there is no negotiations to be done between the Taliban and the U.S. on whether or not Osama bin Laden is going to be handed over to a third country or whatever. But is there any talk behind the scenes of there being a possibility that that may be the only way out of his whole thing, and perhaps maybe Pakistan could be that third country?

Have you heard any talk at all about that behind the scenes?

GARRETT: None whatsoever. And, as a matter of fact, it would be accurate to say that the administration, as it watches the Taliban, is feeling increasingly confident that it feels it is under tremendous pressure.

You will recall it was only on Saturday that the Taliban rejected the president's offer on Thursday to hand over Osama bin Laden in exchange for a U.S. reconsideration of the bombing campaign. The Taliban on Saturday said, no, forget it, we're not interested in that. Then yet just one day later, they said, well, maybe if we can turn him over to a third country and you give us evidence, we'll talk about it. The administration believes that's a signal that they are weakening, feeling more pressure and this no-negotiations posture is working very well to its advantage -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right. So what's the administration going to be focusing on this week?

GARRETT: A number of things: of course, trying to at least put into context the anthrax anxiety that's around the country. Administration officials don't deny that people are legitimately fearful, but they're going to try to explain to them that there are many things that the public health community can do to address this.

The president is also going to look for a swift turnaround in Congress to the counterterrorism bill that's been passed by the House and Senate. There are a few details to work out. The president would very much like to sign that legislation before he leaves Washington on Wednesday for Shanghai, a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Group. If he can sign it then, then law enforcement and intelligence agencies will have tools the White House says they very much need to counter and to succeed in the war on terrorism -- Leon.

HARRIS: Major Garrett -- long nights you put in there last night -- we sure appreciate your checking in with us this morning -- Major Garrett at the White House in Washington.

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