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Bush: bin Laden 'prime suspect'

Bush
President Bush discusses reservist call-up Monday at the Pentagon  


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Osama bin Laden is the "prime suspect" in last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the United States wants to capture him , President Bush said Monday.

Speaking with reporters after a Pentagon briefing on plans to call up reserve troops, Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead.

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"

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Bin Laden, already wanted by the United States for allegedly masterminding previous terrorist attacks through an umbrella organization known as al Qaeda, or "the Base," has become the focus of the investigation into the assaults at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

He has been living as a "guest" of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime, which controls most of Afghanistan.

It is clear the administration is not looking just at bin Laden, though he has become a figurehead for a terror movement that could include several dozen loosely aligned organizations with operations in as many as 60 countries. Several individuals aside from bin Laden have been pinned as comprising a wider al Qaeda brain trust.

Speaking at the State Department on Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Colin Powell said several leads were being followed, all of them leading back to al Qaeda as a center point. He likened the organization to a wide-ranging corporation.

"It's not one individual, it's lots of individuals and it's lots of cells," Powell told reporters. "Osama bin Laden is the chairman of the holding company, and within that holding company are terrorist cells and organizations in dozens of countries around the world, any one them capable of committing a terrorist act.

"It's not enough to get one individual, although we'll start with that one individual."

Change in foreign affairs?

Adding to the adminstration's steely stance Monday were growing rumors that the United States might seek to alter a number of long-held practices governing its overseas activities, including prohibitions on undercover activities that could interfere in the internal affairs of another nation. The nation, for example, has complied with an executive order issued during the Ford administration that bans the U.S. for assassinating national leader or other prominent overseas figures.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday -- without elaboration -- that the assassination order is still in place and has not been lifted by Bush, but "it does not limit the nation's ability to act in self-defense."

In his comments at the Pentagon Monday, the president reiterated his previous warning that governments and organizations that help or harbor terrorists will face the wrath of the United States.

"We're going to find those evildoers, those barbaric people who attacked our country, and we're going to hold them accountable," Bush said. "We're going to hold the people who house them accountable. The people who think they can provide them safe havens will be held accountable. The people who feed them will be held accountable.

"And the Taliban must take my statement seriously."

'Great faith' in economy

Bush also continuing trying to reassure the American public on Monday, the first day U.S. stock markets opened since the attack. Stocks dropped precipitously despite calls for calm and warnings that the first trading day since last Tuesday would be turbulent.

Bush said he has "great faith" in the nation's economy, though he conceded that "it's tough right now."

"The underpinnings for economic growth are there," he said. "We're the greatest entrepreneurial society in the world. We've got the best farmers and ranchers. We've got a strong manufacturing base."

The president said he would work with Congress to come up with an economic stimulus package. "If need be, that will send a clear signal ... that the government's going to act, too."

Fleischer said later that it is "too soon" to tell what the economic stimulus package might contain, but he said an additional tax cut is one option under consideration. The president was scheduled to meet with his economic policy team later in the day to discuss the economic fallout from the terrorist attacks, Fleischer said.

At the Pentagon, Bush and military officials discussed details for the call-up of 35,000 military reservists, which the president authorized last week.

"They will help maintain our air defense so they can stay on high alert. They will check shipping in ports. They will help our military with airlift and logistics," he said. "They will provide military police. They will participate in engineering projects. They will help gathering intelligence. And they will perform work as chaplains.

"I know this means a lot of sacrifice for those who will be called up and their families. But ... the troops who will be called up understand better than most that freedom has a cost and that we're willing to bear that cost."

Bush visited an Islamic center in the Washington area later in the day to show his support for Arab-Americans, some of whom have been attacked in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist carnage.

"The American people were appalled and outraged at last week's attacks, as were Muslims from across the world," Bush said. "The face of terror is not the true face of Islam. Islam represents peace."







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