The Bush administration is standing firm in its demands that Afghanistan turn over alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. This, after Afghanistan's Taleban rulers rejected President Bush's call to surrender leaders of the bin Laden organization. The Taleban says it wants to see America's evidence first.
In a speech Thursday night to a joint session of Congress, President Bush issued an ultimatum to the Taleban.
Mr. Bush said they must turn over Osama bin Laden and end their support for terrorism. If not, he warned, Afghanistan and the terrorists will share the same fate.
The Taleban was unmoved by his demands. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer was not surprised. "The President's could not have made it any plainer last night that this is not the time for negotiations or discussions. This is the time for action," he said.
During a session with reporters, Mr. Fleischer was asked several times if the United States intends to remove the Taleban by force. He refused to answer directly. "The President has made it very clear the United States is preparing for action on a number of major fronts that include military, financial, and diplomatic," said Ari Fleischer. "And it will be aimed at those who harbor or support or engage in terrorism."
He was also evasive when asked about specific military planning. But he stressed the United States is prepared to send its forces into action to counter the terrorist threat to America. "This nation is preparing for war because war has been declared against the United States," he said. "And the United States will respond. The United States will respond to protect lives in the future. The United States will respond because justice demands it."
The White House spokesman said the president made clear in his speech Thursday night that terrorism will be defeated and those who harbor terrorists will pay the price.
In that address, Mr. Bush also stressed the support the United States is receiving from nations around the world. The president has spent a lot of time since last Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon trying to build an international coalition to fight terrorism.
On Friday morning, Mr. Bush placed calls to the Presidents of Turkey and Nigeria and the Sultan of Oman. He met later in the day with China's foreign minister.