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Ashcroft Thanks Swiss for 'Important Role' in Apprehension of Padilla


U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the United States and Switzerland will work more closely together to gather and share information about suspected terrorists. Mr. Ashcroft made the comment to reporters after talks with Swiss officials.

Mr. Ashcroft thanked Swiss authorities for playing what he called a "very important" role in helping to apprehend suspected terrorist Jose Padilla, also known as Abdullah al Muhajir. But he would not provide details on the evidence that led to the arrest of Mr. Padilla.

Mr. Padilla is an American who U.S. officials have said was helping prepare a radioactive "dirty" bomb attack in the United States. He made several transit stops in Switzerland. And, Swiss officials said, they believe he carried more than $10,000 in cash that may have come from the al-Qaida network.

Mr. Ashcroft said the United States and Switzerland expect to work more closely together to investigate terrorist networks, with joint teams in the two countries tracking not only money transactions but information about the whereabouts of suspected terrorists.

"The best friend of prevention in terrorism is information, and obviously the ability to work together to share information can help us significantly. There are too many al-Qaida, and we will continue to work at the highest level possible to interrupt, disrupt, prevent, destabilize, starve the resources to secure and promote the safety and security of freedom-loving citizens around the world," Mr. Ashcroft said.

Mr. Ashcroft said Swiss banks have frozen about one-third of the financial assets blocked worldwide that are believed to be connected to international terrorism. He also said new U.S. immigration policies along Swiss lines will be in operation in three years.

"America is moving towards a position closer to the Swiss model relating to immigration. Where we ask individuals to confirm their presence in our culture by registration and to confirm that their presence in America is consistent with the purpose for their visa," Mr. Ashcroft said.

Mr. Ashcroft said the most immediate change will be to fingerprint and photograph about 100,000 people seeking entry into the United States.

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