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Bush Targets Iraq, Iran, North Korea for 'Quick Action'

Monday, 11 February 2002 12:00 AM

"The president is focused on what needs to be done to protect the American people," spokesman Ari Fleischer told a news briefing.

These three nations, he said, were "a clear and present danger to the United States" and were developing "weapons of mass destruction."

In Tehran, thousands marched in the streets Monday. Addressing a rally in Tehran, President Mohammed Khatemi condemned Bush's statement and urged the United States "not to make the mistake of attacking Iran.

"We are under a threat because some American leaders think they are masters of the world and want others to obey," said Khatemi, who in the past made several attempts to reach out to Washington.

In a message broadcast by the state-run television, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain called the American "behavior a clear tyranny and evil hostility" against other nations.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, once again asked for more international "peacekeepers" to deal with hundreds of small armed groups, amid indications from U.S. officials Monday that all was not well in the war-torn country.

In Pakistan, senior members of the former Taliban regime said they would also participate in a tribal assembly the United Nations is planning to convene to decide Afghanistan's future.

Talking to reporters in the United Arab Emirates, Karzai said he needed more "peacekeepers" to restore peace and security in a country that has not known peace for more than 23 years.

"People from all over Afghanistan come to us, seeking peace and security,” he said. "It is more important for them than health, education or development."

Karzai has urged the international community to expand the "peacekeeping" force in Kabul from 5,000 to 30,000 and allow it to patrol other Afghan cities as well.

Working under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, the present force is confined to Kabul and its environs.

Britain, which heads the force, has rejected Karzai's request, offering instead to train an Afghan national army to help him run the country.

Although not endorsing Karzai's request for more international troops, Pentagon officials told reporters in Washington that there was "confusion and uncertainty" in post-war Afghanistan.

"To say that conditions in Afghanistan are confusing is an understatement," said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke while addressing a briefing with Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem.

"There are people who keep switching sides," said Clarke while talking about Afghan armed groups. "It is impossible to say these people are on this side and those on the other.

"It's a shadow war," added Stufflebeem.

But they rejected reports that the CIA had killed innocent villagers in a raid on suspected al-Qaeda guerrillas near a terrorist-training camp in eastern Afghanistan.

Stufflebeem said there was no evidence to confirm local reports that three men killed in the attack were peasants collecting scrap metal, as the locals said. A CIA-owned unmanned Predator aircraft, armed with a Hellfire missile, killed all three. They had also believed that one of the three was terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Although it turned out not to be bin Laden, documents, weapons and ammunition collected from the site confirmed the CIA's suspicion that the men were al-Qaeda operatives, said Stufflebeem.

On Monday, the Washington Post quoted residents as claiming that three men killed in the CIA attack on Feb. 3 were peasants.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said there were now 463 detainees in U.S. prison camps with 220 of them at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. On Friday, U.S. soldiers took custody of the former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, who surrendered to Afghan authorities. He is the highest-ranking member of the Taliban in custody.

In Pakistan, a former deputy prime minister in the Taliban regime, Mullah Arsalan Rehmani, told SANA news agency that "a large number of Taliban supporters in Afghanistan will represent the militia in the forthcoming loya jirga."

The United Nations and the interim Afghan government are trying to convene the loya jirga, or tribal assembly, to decide a form of government for Afghanistan.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The president is focused on what needs to be done to protect the American people, spokesman Ari Fleischer told a news briefing. These three nations, he said, were a clear and present danger to the United States and were developing weapons of mass destruction. In...
Monday, 11 February 2002 12:00 AM
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