Take bin Laden 'dead or alive,' president says

Sun National Staff

WASHINGTON - President Bush said yesterday that he wants Osama bin Laden, the Islamic militant suspected of masterminding last week's terrorist attacks, to be captured "dead or alive."

As Bush considers his military options, which include targeting bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization, he was asked whether he wanted bin Laden killed.

"I want justice," he replied. "There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"

Many Americans returned to work yesterday, seeking a semblance of normality. A cherished tradition, Major League Baseball, resumed play, and the stock markets reopened. But it was all a backdrop to the intensifying talk of war in Washington.

The president spoke at the Pentagon, where he met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to discuss the call-up of 35,000 reservists in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Bush has spoken of the likelihood of a war on terrorism that would be led by the United States and that could rage for some time. Yesterday, he warned Americans that this war would probably produce casualties.

"We will win the war, and there will be costs," Bush said.

"The U.S. military," he added, "is ready to defend freedom at any cost."

Holding people accountable

The administration has steadily sharpened its rhetoric toward bid Laden, whom it calls the "prime suspect" responsible for the attacks, as well as toward those who harbor or aid terrorists.

"We're going to hold the people who house [terrorists] accountable," Bush said. "The people who think they can provide them safe havens will be held accountable. The people who feed them will be held accountable. And the Taliban must take my statement seriously."

It was the first time that the president had publicly threatened U.S. military action that would target the Taliban regime in Afghanistan if it refused to surrender bin Laden.

Ari Fleischer, Bush's spokesman, asserted yesterday that a quarter-century-old executive order that bars assassinations "does not limit America's ability to act in its self-defense."

In Afghanistan, several senior Pakistani military officials have been rebuffed in their effort to persuade the Taliban government to turn over bin Laden and some of his associates. Reports yesterday indicated that the Pakistanis had been "severely discouraged" by the response of the Taliban, who set out conditions for giving up bin Laden that seemed impossible to meet.

But the Pakistani officials chose to stay overnight in Afghanistan in hopes of persuading the Taliban to relent.

Room to maneuver

Despite its threatening rhetoric, the Bush administration appears to be giving the Pakistanis room to maneuver. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that the United States had not set a deadline for the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and that "there will be some communication in the future" between the United States and the Taliban.

Powell indicated that the United States would send its own delegation to Pakistan in coming days but that decisions on who would go and when had not been made.

At a news conference, Powell also touched on one of the difficulties in assembling an anti-terror coalition that would include Arab and Muslim states: the violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I think we do have to do something about the situation in the Middle East," the secretary of state said. "I carve out part of my day to press and work on that."

While expressing sympathy for the people of Afghanistan, Powell warned them that in a global war on terrorism, "all roads lead to the leader of that organization - and his location is Afghanistan."

'We mean no ill'

His remarks reflected an effort by the Bush administration to prepare Arab and other nations for probable military action.

"We mean no ill" to the people of Afghanistan, Powell said. "They are a suffering people. They are a poor people. And for that reason alone they should not allow these invaders to put their society at risk."

The secretary of state has assumed control of a U.S. diplomatic drive to build support for broad actions, including political, economic and military steps, to escalate pressure on the Taliban.

"I am pleased that the coalition is coming together," Powell said. "This challenge is one that went far beyond America, far beyond New York City and far beyond Washington."

Domestic security

As part of the expanding U.S. campaign to target terrorism and track down elusive terrorist networks, Attorney General John Ashcroft urged Congress to approve by the end of the week legislation to expand the government's wire-tapping authority.

Ashcroft also said the government would sharply boost the number of federal agents who fly commercial airliners as air marshals.

"We need these tools to fight the terrorism threat which exists in the United States, and we must meet that growing threat," he said.

FBI agents, meanwhile, pursued leads across the country, with Ashcroft noting that some associates of the suicide hijackers might still be in the country and could pose a threat.

The Justice Department said at least 49 people have been detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and questioned about the attacks. Some of those have been released. But some have been charged with immigration violations and would remain jailed.

Despite Bush's statement that he wants bin Laden "dead or alive," FBI officials said agents would methodically track tens of thousands of tips, some involving terrorist groups apart from bin Laden.

"Of course, our ultimate objective is to capture him and bring him to justice - he's a Top 10 fugitive for that reason," a senior FBI official said last night. "It's not changing anything."

Bush visits mosque

After his appearance yesterday at the Pentagon, Bush visited a mosque and appealed to Americans to get back to everyday business and not to turn against their Muslim neighbors.

In his socks, as is Muslim practice, Bush padded through the ornate mosque on Washington's Embassy Row and was told of Muslim-American women who are afraid to leave their homes for fear of suffering violence in the aftermath of the terrorist strikes.

"Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America; they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior," Bush said.

Economic, airline troubles

The president said yesterday that he was concerned about the ailing economy, especially the transportation business. He said tht his $1.35 trillion tax cut is "working its way through the economy" and that, if necessary, he would work with Congress to try to produce an economic stimulus package. He did not elaborate.

In the meantime, the president ordered his aides to draw up a list of ways to help the airlines - several of which could soon be on the brink of bankruptcy - cope with losses resulting in part from the terrorist attacks.

Most in hospitals identified

At the devastated site of the World Trade Center, the search for survivors went on without good news. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said 5,422 people are missing. Only five survivors have been pulled from the smoking ruins - and none since Wednesday, the day after the disaster.

Hospitals in New York that have treated people injured in the attack said yesterday that no one remains unidentified.

Those searching for friends or relatives have been clinging to the hope that their missing loved ones are hospitalized, perhaps unconscious, their identifies unknown. Photographs of the missing have plastered walls and windows around New York.

But "we've got a handle on everyone who's here," said Bill McCann, a spokesman for Bellevue Hospital Center. "No one's unidentified."

The same was true at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center; New York University Downtown Hospital, which has seen more than 1,000 patients; New York University Medical Center; and New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center.

Relocating offices

To maintain New York City's employment base, Giuliani ordered city agencies to give up 1 million square feet of their space for businesses that have been displaced by the terrorist attacks, said a real estate broker who represents the city.

The broker, CB Richard Ellis, expects to identify in the next couple of days which city offices would be moved to outer boroughs.

About 650 businesses that were housed in the World Trade Center or surrounding towers need offices. With a scramble on for space, some businesses have set up temporarily in executives' homes and other companies' conference rooms.

Manhattan, which has the lowest vacancy rate in the nation, might not be able to accommodate all of the displaced businesses, some brokers have said.

Steven A. Swerdlow, a division president at CB Richard Ellis, said most of the largest blocks of office space would be gone in the next couple of weeks.

Sun staff writer Meredith Cohn, the Associated Press and the New York Times contributed to this article.

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