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Pentagon considering Georgia as next front in anti-terrorism war


(CNN) -- The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military trainers and equipment to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to help in the fight against Chechen rebels suspected of having ties to al Qaeda, a senior Pentagon official told CNN Tuesday.

The Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that no final decision had been made, but that the military assistance was under serious consideration.

The official described the assistance as similar to that provided to the Philippines, where more than 600 U.S. troops are providing training and logistical support to government force battling Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim rebel group that was supported by al Qaeda in the past.

In Pakistan, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on Tuesday sounded an "alarm for everybody" across the globe about "a vast and international network of terrorists." Mariane Pearl urged governments to take responsibility for fighting terrorism and for people to be aware of their country's foreign policy. (Full story)

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday it has moved to freeze the assets of 21 individuals who have ties to ETA, the Basque separatist group considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the action was taken in close collaboration with the government of Spain and the European Union. (Full story)

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    A majority of people interviewed in nine Muslim countries had unfavorable opinions of the United States and President Bush, according to a new Gallup poll. Most respondents also said they think the U.S. military action in Afghanistan is morally unjustified. (Full story)

    In Iran, the leader of Afghanistan's interim government ended his three-day visit there saying that Iran's troubled relations with the United States will not hurt bilateral relations between the two neighbors. "Iran has never interfered in the internal affairs of Afghanistan," Hamid Karzai said, disputing recent U.S. allegations. "Iran has always made praiseworthy assistance on the issue of the anti-terror fight" and in the ouster of the Taliban." (Full story)

    The Pentagon will close its Office of Strategic Influence after news outlets reported that it would spread disinformation to the overseas press. Announcing the decision Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blamed "inaccurate speculation and assertions" about the office's mission for the decision, but said that its functions would be taken over by other offices within the Pentagon. (Full story)

    In New York, the federal prosecutor who has sent more terrorists to prison than any other U.S. prosecutor said Tuesday her only regret is that she never got to put Osama bin Laden on trial. "My biggest frustration I have is that bin Laden is still out there," former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said.


    Will Daniel Pearl's killers be brought to justice?

    Will Afghanistan's interim regime lead to a stable, permanent government?

    How will Afghanistan's relationship with the United States affect its ties with Iran?

    WHO'S WHO:

    Hamid Karzai: Head of Afghanistan's interim government.

    Daniel Pearl: Wall Street Journal reporter, 38, kidnapped and slain in Pakistan.

    Mariane Pearl: The widow of slain reporter Daniel Pearl.

    Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh: Islamic militant now jailed in Pakistan as the suspected ringleader in Pearl's kidnapping.




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