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US Officials Stress Vigilance on July 4 - 2002-06-30

Senior Bush administration officials are urging Americans to remain vigilant during the upcoming U.S. Independence Day holiday. But they say July 4 celebrations should go on as planned.

This is the first July 4 holiday since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And on Saturday night, the federal government put law enforcement on a heightened state of alert.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says there have been intelligence reports indicating extra precautions might be necessary. "I do not want to over-hype it, but I think what was passed out yesterday was just a prudent alert to law enforcement agencies," he said. "And in the course of the next couple of days, we will be meeting on a regular basis to make an assessment of any additional threats that might be coming our way."

During an appearance on the CBS television program Face the Nation. Mr. Powell said there has been no information pointing to a specific target. He indicated that given the large crowds that turn out for July 4 celebrations plus the patriotic nature of the holiday, extra vigilance is warranted. "There are some al-Qaida reports and other reports," said Colin Powell. "But it is just a time for heightened awareness."

The secretary of state was then asked about a front page story in Sunday's Washington Post newspaper, detailing a new alliance between al-Qaida and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah. "Anytime you see any terrorist organization that has not cooperated seriously with al-Qaida start to work with al-Qaida, then I think you should take it seriously, and we will take it seriously," he said.

On CNN's Late Edition, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice echoed the administration's concern. "Very often, even though their aims may appear to conflict at some level, they seem to be taking advantage of modern communications, of sources of funding, of training to present something of a united front toward American interests," she said. "And that is deeply concerning."

Ms. Rice said the good news is there is now a worldwide effort to combat terrorism on a global basis, making it more difficult for individual terrorist groups to form alliances.