- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

The United States yesterday told its NATO allies it is still weighing its response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and would not be seeking joint military action for now.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, meeting with defense ministers of the 19-nation alliance in Brussels, said the United States had received strong cooperation from individual allies in identifying those behind the attack, but said he had not pressed the alliance for a commitment to participate in or facilitate a military strike.
"If we need collective action, we'll ask for it," Mr. Wolfowitz told reporters after the discussions at NATO headquarters. "We don't anticipate that at the moment."
A day after the attacks in New York and Washington, NATO for the first time ever passed a resolution saying it was prepared to invoke collective defense obligations if the attackers proved to have come from outside the United States. Article 5 of the NATO charter essentially declares that an attack on one member of the alliance would be treated as an attack on all.
President Bush has named the network of Afghanistan-based Saudi financier Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect in the terrorist strikes.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the Article 5 resolution had already proven useful, singling out help U.S. investigators had already received from Britain, France and Turkey.
Some analysts suggested that not seeking a collective NATO decision also increased Washington's maneuvering room.
But the deputy secretary, considered a leading hawk in the administration's war councils, sounded a note of caution about any quick, massive U.S. military retaliatory move.
"I think it can't be stressed enough that everybody who's waiting for military action … needs to rethink this thing," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
"We don't believe in just demonstrating that our military is capable of bombing. The whole world knows that," he said.
The Bush administration appears to have made progress in recent days on a number of diplomatic fronts, even as it ponders when and how to attack the bin Laden network and other terrorist organizations.
Saudi Arabia yesterday announced that the embassy of the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan would be permanently closed today, following through on Tuesday's decision to cut all ties with the government the United States charges with shielding bin Laden.
Despite facing deep internal divisions, Pakistan has said it has joined the global anti-terror coalition Washington has been organizing.
Pakistani and U.S. defense and intelligence officials reached broad agreement on major points of an operational plan that includes attacks on camps in Afghanistan, senior Pakistani officials told the Associated Press yesterday. However, they said some sticking points, including the use of ground forces, remain.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at the State Department yesterday that Egypt would support U.S. strikes against Afghanistan. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are considered bellwethers in the Arab world.
Mr. Maher said it was "normal" that the two countries "should join any attempt to get rid of this scourge from which the world has suffered and continues to suffer."
In an interview with CNN yesterday, the Egyptian diplomat said that Cairo would like to see evidence of bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, but that his government had faith in the United States.
"We have not seen evidence, but we trust the United States," he said.
Russian cooperation has improved markedly since President Vladimir Putin over the weekend said Moscow would permit the use of its airspace by U.S. planes for humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. Mr. Putin also lifted Russian objections to the use of Central Asian states it once controlled as staging grounds for strikes within Afghanistan.
In an unusual gesture, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov attended the NATO gathering in Brussels, even presenting a 20-minute briefing on Moscow's view of the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.
One diplomatic setback was the announcement by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that his country would not join any U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan.
Iran's moderate President Mohammed Khatami had expressed sympathy for the American casualties in the Sept. 11 attack, and both the Bush administration and the European Union had voiced hopes the anti-terror effort could prove a means to improve Iran's relations with the West.
Nicholas Kralev contributed to this report, which was based in part on wire service reports.

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