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Britain Pledges Help for Afghans Once They Stop Harboring Terrorists - 2001-10-05

Britain has issued a message of support to the Afghan people, pledging international assistance to rebuild their country once it stops serving as a haven for alleged terrorists.

Mr. Straw is telling the Afghan people that the world community has no quarrel with them. He says any military strikes on Afghanistan will be aimed at suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaida organization, and the Taleban leadership there. "There may be military action taken in the geographical area of Afghanistan, but that military action is targeted and focused on Osama bin Laden, on the al-Qaida organization, and unless, at this late hour, the Taleban regime meet the ultimatum, which was set up by President Bush almost three weeks ago, then it will also have to be against those harboring al-Qaida, namely the Taleban," he said.

Osama bin Laden and his organization are named as the chief suspects behind terrorist attacks against the United States last month.

A large part of Mr. Straw's message was aimed at the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have fled the poverty, drought, hunger, and factional fighting that has ravaged their homeland.

Britain is sending nearly $35 million worth of immediate humanitarian aid to Afghan refugees.

Mr. Straw says he understands why Afghans may be skeptical about the world's long-term commitment to help them, but he says the West has learned its lesson. "I think their skepticism on this is understandable, given what has happened in the past," he said. "Afghanistan's capacity to produce instability, disruption, violence and terrorism around the world is so great, that the whole of the international community will have to be hands-on in the region and in the territory for a great deal of time."

Regarding the plight of Afghans still inside the country, British Foreign Secretary Straw says food may dropped to them by air to try to avert starvation as winter approaches.

He admits the obstacles are great. However, he says even the Taleban might cooperate because a hungry population could threaten their power.