- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

U.S. anti-terrorism efforts won a huge boost yesterday when Pakistan said that Osama bin Laden should be indicted for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and NATO pledged full support for military action against the terrorist leader.
Pakistan said it was convinced by U.S. evidence that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the first Muslim nation after NATO ally Turkey to publicly accuse bin Laden's al Qaeda network of the hijackings that killed around 5,500.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, addressing an emergency session of Parliament, disclosed some of the U.S. evidence linking bin Laden to the attack.
Three hijackers have been "positively identified" as associates, and bin Laden told other cohorts he was preparing a major operation in the United States, Mr. Blair revealed.
"The threat posed by bin Laden and his terrorism must be eliminated," the prime minister told Parliament.
"We act for justice. We act with world opinion behind us, and we have an absolute determination to see justice done and this evil of mass international terrorism confronted and defeated."
The speech came amid continued efforts by the United States, and Britain, to convince the Muslim world that bin Laden, and not Islam, is the target of an anticipated strike by U.S. and British forces.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban remained defiant yesterday, refusing to turn over bin Laden and threatening to severely punish anyone who suggests otherwise.
In Brussels, NATO approved U.S. requests for military aid by granting unlimited use of airspace; access to ports, airfields and refueling facilities; NATO airborne early-warning aircraft; extra security for U.S. forces in Europe; and intelligence sharing and replacement of any troops that might be moved from the Balkans.
NATO also agreed to stage a naval show of force in the Eastern Mediterranean "to provide a NATO presence and demonstrate resolve," an official statement said.
"These decisions clearly demonstrate the allies' resolve and commitment to support and contribute to the U.S.-led fight against terrorism," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson told reporters.
Support coming from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, yesterday was especially significant.
Pakistan all but broke off contact with the Taliban government it had helped to take control in 1996.
"We have seen the material that was provided to us by the U.S. side," Foreign Office spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan told reporters.
"This material certainly provides sufficient basis for indictment in a court of law," Mr. Khan said.
"There are sufficient grounds for indictment, and it reinforces the resolutions of the Security Council taken earlier," he said, referring to a series of U.N. Security Council anti-terrorism resolutions passed since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The Pakistani endorsement of U.S. accusations against bin Laden, who has been sheltered by the Taliban government since 1996, represents a significant effort to win the hearts and minds of the world's 1 billion Muslims.
Muslims have been bombarded with disinformation spread by anti-Semitic and anti-Western groups accusing Israel, Jews and rogue Americans of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The U.S. reluctance to disclose its proof of bin Laden's involvement has also played into the hands of Islamic radicals, who used it to accuse the United States of being anti-Muslim.
Acceptance of the U.S. allegations against bin Laden by Pakistan, a Muslim nation with 145 million people and bordering Afghanistan, could help win some Muslim backing for the U.S.-led campaign against bin Laden.
To ease Muslim pressure within Pakistan, the United States has recently downplayed efforts to base military forces there.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will conspicuously miss that country on his current swing through the Middle East and Uzbekistan.
However, Mr. Blair, who arrived in Moscow last night, is slated to visit Islamabad.
Mr. Blair, in his speech to Parliament before departing for Moscow yesterday, went further than any U.S. public statements in detailing the evidence against bin Laden.
He said three of the hijackers who crashed four U.S. planes Sept. 11 were identified as associates of bin Laden.
He added: "The detailed planning for the terrorist attacks of 11 September was carried out by one of Osama bin Laden's close associates."
Mr. Blair gave a dossier on bin Laden to members of Parliament and posted it on his Web site (www.pm.gov.uk).
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday endorsed the British report, saying, "We agree with their conclusions."
The United States has not disclosed the content of its information linking bin Laden to the Sept. 11 attacks, saying it needed to protect intelligence sources.

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