Monday, November 12, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says he doubts Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons but that it is “reasonable to assume he might very well have chemical or biological or possibly even radiation weapons.”
Mr. Rumsfeld, interviewed yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday,” also said the United States has bombed some sites in Afghanistan that might have been used to develop chemical or biological weapons and narcotics.
“I think it’s unlikely that they have a nuclear weapon, but, on the other hand, with the determination they have, they may very well,” the defense secretary said on CBS, referring to bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network, which is believed to have masterminded the September 11 attacks against the United States.
While the U.S. military continues to hunt for bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist said in an interview last week with a Pakistani journalist that he has both nuclear and chemical weapons.
Bin Laden warned that he would be prepared to use those weapons against the United States if “America used chemical and biological weapons against us.” The interview was conducted at a secret location, which the reporter, who was blindfolded, believed was near Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital.
Asked on Fox whether he is “seriously worried” that al Qaeda has weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “You bet.”
However, Mr. Rumsfeld said in both network interviews that he is not sure whether the terrorists in question know how to use biological or chemical agents as weapons. “It’s one thing to have the chemical or biological capability. It’s another thing to have figured out how to weaponize it or develop the ability to deliver it,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
“We have a lot of information that they have the first step. We have less information with respect to the second,” Mr. Rumsfeld added.
The defense secretary was one of three senior Bush administration officials on news talk shows yesterday who were asked to assess the likelihood that bin Laden has weapons of mass destruction.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said, “I have no way of knowing, but I think it’s unlikely that he has any nuclear weapons.”
He called bin Laden’s nuclear claim a “wild boast and threat” but said he did not know whether he had chemical and biological weapons.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue in appearances on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “Late Edition.”
She reiterated her previous statements that there was “no credible evidence” that bin Laden had nuclear weapons.
“We know he has been trying very hard to get them. We know he has said it is a religious duty to have weapons of mass destruction, and so we take him very seriously,” she said.
“While there’s no credible evidence of him having a nuclear weapon, we’re taking the threat very seriously” and doing everything possible to make sure “he does not acquire usable weapons of mass destruction,” she said.
Miss Rice went on to say that the United States was collaborating with “every intelligence operation practically in the world on the problem of al Qaeda and the Taliban and their weapons of mass destruction.”
On CBS, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked about a report in the New York Times that said U.S. warplanes have not bombed some facilities in Afghanistan that show evidence of producing anthrax and cyanide.
“We have bombed some of them. We don’t know where all of them are,” he said.
“You can be certain that if we had very good information as to the location of a chemical or biological development area, that we would do something about it. We certainly have every desire in the world to prevent the terrorists from using those capabilities,” Mr. Rumsfeld added.
He offered a slightly different perspective on Fox. He pointed out that a biological-weapons laboratory may be small, even mobile, yet capable of “creating enormous carnage in the world.”
“So if we have suspicions, or information, or intelligence that suggests something might have such a role, then you are faced with this issue: Are you best taking it out or are you best learning more about it?” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

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