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India Ready to Cooperate With US - 2001-09-14

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has offered condolences and support to the people of the United States, in the global effort to fight terrorism. Indian officials say New Delhi stands ready to offer operational help to Washington, in the event of any military retaliation for Tuesday's terrorist strikes.

A high-level meeting of the the Cabinet committee on security, held in New Delhi, has concluded with a pledge to extend what Indian officials describe as "all assistance required," to the United States - if and when Washington decides to retaliate militarily - for this weeks' terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee addressed the Indian public Friday, pledging his country's full support in the effort to bring the terrorists to justice. "We stand ready to cooperate with you in the investigations into this crime, and to strengthen our partnership in leading international efforts to ensure that terrorism never succeeds again," he said. "

Press reports in the Indian capital say senior Indian defense officials are considering offering U.S. military forces the use of Indian military facilities in any effort to strike at those behind the New York and Washington attacks. The reports say Indian officials have already begun sharing intelligence data with Washington on alleged terrorist activity in the region.

However, Indian officials say they have, so far, not received any request from U.S. officials for support. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said Saudi exile Osama Bin Laden is considered a prime suspect in the attacks. Mr. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan - several hours flying time from Indian territory.

In his address to the Indian public, Mr. Vajpayee said New Delhi has long warned the global community that terrorist activity in South Asia could spread. Mr. Vajpayee said that governments in the region that support terrorism must be held accountable for their actions - a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan. Indian officials have long complained about what they say is Islambad's support for militant separatists in the disputed territory of Kashmir. For their part, Pakistani officials strongly deny supporting terrorism, saying they only offer moral and diplomatic support to Kashmir separatists.