Wednesday, November 7, 2001

From combined dispatches
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell reassured Egyptians in an interview broadcast yesterday that the United States was not planning attacks on Iraq.
“Our first phase right now is in Afghanistan, but there are no plans at the moment to undertake any other military action,” he told Egyptian television, in answer to a question on whether Iraq was a possible target in an expanded campaign.
“We will see where we are as we go forward, but the concerns like the kind that you have just raised are not concerns that should worry anybody seriously, in any serious way,” Mr. Powell added.
The U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is against the al Qaeda organization of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and the Taliban rulers of the Central Asian country.
Asked about a possible link, Mr. Powell noted reports of contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mohamed Atta, one of the men who hijacked planes on September 11 and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
“But there is no direct link at this point between what happened on the 11th of September and what happened in the anthrax events and Iraq,” Mr. Powell said.
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rejected claims there was a war under way between Islam and other religions during an address to legislators from his National Democratic Party.
Statements by “terrorists and their leaders” aimed at “creating a conflict between Islam and other religions are giving birth to this atmosphere” of religious war, Mr. Mubarak said. “To be fair, there is no war between Islam and any religion.”
Bin Laden on Saturday appealed to Muslims to defend their religion against “the fiercest crusade against Islam since [the days of the Prophet] Muhammad.” He also labeled it a “religious war” pitting Christians against Muslims.
Mr. Mubarak warned that any deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian territories could endanger the whole Middle East.
There is a need to establish a “real peace plan,” he said, adding that, “If the situation continues as it is, it will become complicated.”
Mr. Powell gave no indication in his broadcast remarks that the United States was preparing to make any new Middle East peace initiative during the U.N. General Assembly debate opening in New York on Saturday.
He said the United States already had a “terrific initiative” in the form of the Mitchell plan, which has been awaiting implementation since April, and the Tenet plan, which added some details to security aspects of the Mitchell plan.
The plan, drafted by a committee led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, recommended a cease-fire, a cooling-off period and confidence-building measures leading to peace talks.
“So we have a plan. What we need is an elimination of the violence so that we can get into the Tenet work plan and then the Mitchell plan,” Mr. Powell said.

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