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Britain: bin Laden is Prime Suspect - 2001-09-17

Britain says it has independently confirmed that alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden is the prime suspect in last week's suicide plane attacks in the United States.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says his country's intelligence services have made their own independent assessment of who was behind the U.S. attacks.

Mr. Straw told British radio that London agrees with Washington that suspicion must fall on alleged Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden and his followers.

"One thing is now clear, and I say this is now clear, not only from what has been said in the United States but from our own separate intelligence assessment, and that is that Osama bin Laden and his organization are plainly the prime suspects for this terrorist outrage," said the British foreign minister, "and they do have to be stopped from further outrages, which for certain would go on if they were not stopped."

Mr. Straw compared the current situation with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, noting that "for many people of my generation, or older, this is perhaps potentially the most frightening situation that has occurred since the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s. And for, of course, those many, many people who are younger, it is the most serious and frightening situation to occur."

Mr. Straw praised Pakistan's efforts to try to convince Afghanistan to hand over Mr. Bin Laden, who has denied any involvement in the U.S. attacks.

The foreign secretary refused to comment on the timing of any possible attack on Afghanistan if Mr. Bin Laden is not surrendered.