- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

The United States said yesterday it would consult with its allies and other anti-terror coalition partners before expanding its war beyond Afghanistan, although a decision to fight other countries has not yet been made.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who made the comment during a visit to London, also welcomed Britain's offer to lead a multinational security force in Afghanistan and called for the adoption of a U.N. resolution setting up the force "as soon as possible."

Concluding an eight-day, nine-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia that focused on rebuilding Afghanistan, Mr. Powell vowed to "rip up" every cell of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network and said Washington had yet to plot a course for the next phase of its war on terrorism.

"Obviously, we would consult with our coalition partners as we move forward," he told reporters after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his 10 Downing St. residence. "That is a campaign that we are allied to."

But, he said, "phase one is demanding enough," and "President Bush has made no decisions yet on where we will go in phase two or what the nature of phase two will be."

In Washington, Vice President Richard B. Cheney hinted more strongly at action against Iraq, saying in an interview with Fox News: "If I were [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein, I'd be thinking very carefully about the future, and I'd be looking very closely to see what happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan."

The State Department said yesterday that a U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker, has arrived in northern Iraq as "part of a long-standing series of consultations" with Iraqi Kurdish leaders who oppose Saddam's regime.

"I think we felt it was time to go again," State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters. "The main purpose of the visit is to demonstrate continued U.S. engagement with the Iraqi opposition and to evaluate the implementation of the U.N. Oil for Food program in northern Iraq."

In London, Mr. Blair declined to say whether Britain would take part in a U.S. attack on another country, such as Iraq, Somalia or Sudan.

He said al Qaeda was "not yet done with," even though two months of military strikes in Afghanistan had effectively uprooted the network there.

The prime minister also expressed his country's willingness to lead an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, but said there were "many details to be discussed before there are any announcements to make."

Both Mr. Powell and Mr. Blair said the United Nations should pass a strong Security Council resolution to set ground rules and objectives for the security force.

"I'm pleased the [United Kingdom] is willing to step forward and volunteer for a leadership role," Mr. Powell said earlier yesterday on a stop in Paris. "It's important to get a U.N. resolution in place as quickly as possible."

The 15-member Security Council is expected to vote by Friday on a resolution being drafted by U.S., French and British diplomats. France has also offered to participate in a security force depending upon "the mandate, missions and organization of this force."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who received Mr. Powell in Berlin on Monday, also pledged his country's readiness to send troops.

In Kabul, the Afghan capital, U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said all Afghan leaders he met had told him they would support the deployment of a U.N.-mandated force.

"This force, when it comes, will come as a friend, not an enemy," he said. "The force is not coming to fight anybody but to help increase the security of the people of Afghanistan."

But Northern Alliance military chief Mohammad Fahim, designated defense minister in the interim administration, said a foreign force should number no more than 1,000 troops and its tasks should be limited to guarding government meetings.

Mr. Powell said the security force and the U.S. troops fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda are "two completely different missions" and one may start before the other ends.

Afghanistan's transitional government is set to take office Dec. 22 for a six-month period, after which elections are to be held. Washington has said it would be good if the international peacekeeping unit arrived in Kabul by that time.

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