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US Steps Up Contacts with Allies - 2001-10-04


From Riyadh to Washington, the Bush administration is holding more high-level talks with key allies to broaden support for what appears to be the increasing likelihood of military action in response to last month's terror attacks. The administration is also stepping up contacts with Afghanistan's exiled king, who could emerge as a key player in the country's future.

A senior Bush Administration envoy is expected to meet in Rome soon with Afghanistan's deposed King Zahir Shah. Richard Haass will be the most senior administration official to see the exiled monarch since his name surfaced as a possible successor to Afghanistan's Taleban.

The talks will be part of what State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher calls on-going efforts to maintain contact with a range of Afghan factions. "We'll certainly be interested in his ideas as we are interested in the ideas of others," he said.

The deposed Afghan king has been living in exile since 1973 and has expressed a willingness to return to his country, if the Afghan people so desire. After discussing stepped-up humanitarian aid for the Afghan people with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden left little doubt the days in power for Afghanistan's Taleban rulers are numbered if they do not hand over fugitive Osama bin Laden.

"We discussed and talked about in broad strokes the aid that's already going to help the Afghani people, the refugee camps in surrounding countries, and within Afghanistan, and the need to put together a broader coalition, probably under the mandate of the United Nations with our strong support of follow-on after this undertaking to take out Mr. bin Laden and his associates happens which I believe it will," he said.

NATO says it has been shown clear and compelling proof that the bin Laden network is responsible for last month's attacks in New York and Washington, although the Bush administration has yet to make that case in public. Pakistan says it is not yet convinced.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is on a three-day trip to several key Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has not yet said in public whether U.S. forces will be permitted to use key airbases in the country to carry out attacks if a military mission is launched.

Wednesday, Secretary of State Powell would only tell reporters he is very satisfied with the support the Riyadh has offered.

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