- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed details of the case against Osama bin Laden yesterday, saying three hijackers have been "positively identified" as associates and that bin Laden told other cohorts he was preparing a major operation in the United States.
One of the three hijackers, he said, had played key roles in the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 persons, and last October's bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.
Speaking to a special session of Parliament, Mr. Blair said evidence directly implicates bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in the Sept. 11 attacks and other incidents.
A dossier with some of the evidence was given to lawmakers, but Mr. Blair said other evidence "of a more direct nature" could not be disclosed for security reasons.
"We have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network were responsible for the attacks on September 11," he told the hushed session.
Mr. Blair later flew to Russia, arriving in Moscow in the evening, for talks with President Vladimir Putin that Mr. Blair said were aimed at strengthening the international coalition against terrorism.
In his speech, the prime minister indicated military action was likely, but gave no hint when it would happen.
"We are now approaching the difficult time when action is taken. It will be difficult, there are no easy options," he said.
In Paris, French Defense Minister Alain Richard said U.S. military retaliation isn't likely for several weeks.
"The decisions to take action haven't been made," Mr. Richard said. "Everyone is going to prepare their own means that will be well-adapted for a joint effort. We aren't at the end of that."
Mr. Blair said three of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks on New York and Washington had been "positively identified as known associates of bin Laden."
The individuals were not identified in Mr. Blair's speech or in the documents given to Parliament. The documents said one of bin Laden's "closest and most senior associates," also not identified, was responsible for detailed planning of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Most importantly, one of bin Laden's closest lieutenants has said clearly that he helped with the planning of the 11 September attacks and has admitted the involvement of the al Qaeda organization," Mr. Blair said.
He said intelligence reports show bin Laden told associates shortly before Sept. 11 that he had a major operation against America under preparation, warning cohorts to return to Afghanistan because of the action.
Mr. Blair also said bin Laden's involvement was clear in a series of attacks on U.S. targets in recent years.
He said every effort must be made to bring bin Laden to justice and vowed that would be achieved.
The dossier given to Parliament also was posted on the prime minister's Web site (https://www.pm.gov.uk).
Mr. Blair repeated his earlier warnings to Afghanistan's Taliban regime that it must hand over bin Laden and dismantle his camps in that country or become the enemy of the coalition being formed against terrorism.
"The Taliban must yield them up or become our enemy also," he said.
Mr. Blair's office would not say how long he was to remain in Moscow. He also is slated to visit Pakistan.

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