Osama bin Laden wanted ‘dead or alive’
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush said Monday the United States wants terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden ”dead or alive.” The Federal Reserve cut key interest rates, but nervous investors sent Dow Jones industrial stocks plunging to their largest point loss ever.
Faced with a faltering economy, Bush met with top domestic policy advisers late Monday to consider legislation to bail out hard-hit U.S. airlines. And aides said he is weighing a new economic stimulus package that might include new tax cuts.
”I’ve got great faith in the economy. I understand it’s tough right now,” Bush said. ”Transportation business is hurting.” He suggested that stock markets, closed since last Tuesday’s attacks, had been ”correcting prior to this crisis.”
Even though the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark federal funds and discount interest rates by half a percentage point, stocks plummeted as markets opened for the first time since the devastating attack in the heart of New York’s financial district.
Airline, insurance and entertainment stocks were hit particularly hard. The Dow Jones industrials suffered their biggest one-day point drop, 684.81, to 8,920.70, dropping below 9,000 for the first time since December 1998.
Bush balanced attending to the weakening economy with preparing the military – and the nation – for possibly prolonged conflict in the battle against international terrorism.
”We will win the war and there will be costs,” Bush said during a visit to the Pentagon, badly damaged when hit by one of the hijacked airliners. ”The U.S. military is ready to defend freedom at any cost,” he said as the Defense Department readied call-up orders for an estimated 35,000 reservists.
The FBI, meanwhile, said it had detained 49 people for questioning in the jetliner attacks that left 5,000 or more dead at the destroyed World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that numerous federal agents would fly commercial airliners to provide safety and urged Congress to act quickly on anti-terrorism legislation.
”We need these tools to fight the terrorism threat which exists in the United States and we must meet that growing threat,” Ashcroft said.
At the meeting on the airline industry’s problems, Bush directed his staff to develop a comprehensive package to help the carriers, said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. She did not elaborate. The airlines are seeking a $20 billion package.
Airlines say they have lost $1 billion in the past week. US Airways, based in Arlington, Va., announced Monday it will lay off 11,000 employees, or 24 percent of its work force. Industry analysts expect thousands of other layoffs at other major carriers.
Separately, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said he would try to move airline legislation through the House as soon as possible. ”We need to make sure that America keeps flying because that’s important,” he said.
The White House held open the possibility that Bush would support additional tax cuts as part of a new stimulus package. Congressional Republicans are pushing for a cut in the capital gains tax on the sale of stocks, real estate and other assets.
The president also visited the Washington Islamic Center about two miles from the White House and decried prejudice against Muslim and Arab Americans. Those venting such anger ”don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind and they should be ashamed of their behavior,” Bush said.
In stockinged feet, he stood with his back to an ornately tiled prayer alcove and read a passage from the Koran: ”In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil.” Added Bush: ”Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace.”
Bush intensified his rhetorical assault on bin Laden, the exiled Saudi dissident that U.S. officials consider the prime suspect. ”I want justice,” the president said at the Pentagon. ”There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said: ‘Wanted, dead or alive.”’
Responding to questions, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said a quarter-century-old executive order barring assassinations ”does not limit America’s ability to act in its self-defense.” He added, ”I’m not going to define all the steps that may or may not be taken.”
”All roads lead to … Osama bin Laden and his location in Afghanistan,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell, overseeing the diplomatic effort to persuade Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia to turn over bin Laden.
The Muslim fundamentalist group has given bin Laden sanctuary in Afghanistan since 1996.
”I am pleased that the coalition is coming together,” Powell said. ”I think everybody recognizes that this challenge is one that went far beyond America, far beyond New York City and far beyond Washington.”
Powell gave his positive account after talking by telephone to President Ali Abdallah Salih of Yemen, whom he said was ”very helpful.”
Pakistani diplomats traveled to Afghanistan at the urging of the United States to appeal to Taliban leaders to turn over bin Laden.
According to Taliban-run radio, the council of Islamic clerics will decide whether to hand him over.
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said the administration would also go after financial assets of terrorists and their organizations. ”We need to use all the tools at our disposal,” he said as the Treasury Department created a special task force to coordinate the gathering of such financial information.
FBI Director Robert Mueller disclosed that 49 people – nearly double the number when the weekend began – have been detained for questioning in the investigation or because of doubts about their immigration status.
Mueller also said material witness warrants had been issued for people, but he wouldn’t say how many. Officials previously disclosed two arrests.
Ashcroft also directed the U.S. Marshals Service to assign more than 300 deputies to assist FBI field offices in the investigation, which has received 7,700 phone calls and 47,000 tips on the Internet.
The attorney general said a growing number of federal law enforcement agents from the Justice Department would be boarding commercial flights as air marshals. Typically, air marshals are armed.
Bush began the day by greeting federal workers at the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building next to the White House.
”A lot of people who work in this building were deeply worried about their lives last week. There are a lot of courageous people here and they’re coming back to work,” he said.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank announced they had canceled this year’s annual meetings, scheduled for late this month in Washington.
Secret Service agents arrested a Jersey City, N.J., woman and accused her of calling in two bomb threats to the White House two nights after the attacks. She was ”agitated and intoxicated” at the time, according to a report filed by the Secret Service.
First Lady Laura Bush attended a memorial service in Stonycreek Township, Pa., with families of the people killed when hijacked United flight 93 crashed.
”America is learning the names, but you know the people,” she said. ”And you are the ones they thought of in the last moments of life. You are the ones they called, and prayed to see again,” Mrs. Bush said. ”We cannot ease the pain, but this country stands by you.”
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