Putin says he needs no more evidence of bin Laden’s role in attacks on United States
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he was convinced Osama bin Laden had a role in the attacks on the United States and suggested Russia’s cooperation in fighting terrorism should usher in a new era in its relations with the West.
Putin said Russian intelligence agencies had all the evidence they needed to show that bin Laden was involved in the attacks, but that they could not pinpoint the exact degree of that involvement.
In Brussels for meetings with Belgian, European Union and NATO leaders, he called international terrorists ”bacteria that adapt by living off their host body” and said a global alliance is needed to fight them.
”The effort will never work unless we unite the whole international community in a common front against terrorism,” Putin said after talks with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Putin said Russia would support U.S. military action against those responsible for the attacks. He criticized Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, who has said no troops would be allowed to use bases in his nation to launch attacks on Arabs or Muslims.
”We’re not talking about strikes against Muslims, but strikes against terrorism,” Putin told reporters, echoing what the United States has been assuring nations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Putin has ruled out Russian military involvement in a U.S. strike in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime shelters terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.
But he said Russia would work with the West to help tackle terrorist financing and support networks for extremists, as well as tackling causes of terrorism, including poverty and instability.
”I think military force is not enough to fight terrorism … we have to eliminate the base upon which terrorism is founded, eliminate the causes,” he said. ”We are ready to strengthen our cooperation with NATO and European military structures, to give a new quality to our relationship.”
Putin spoke after NATO announced that the United States had provided ”clear and compelling” evidence that bin Laden was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks and activated an article of the alliance treaty that says an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.
Russian and NATO officials met in Brussels to discuss ways to enhance cooperation, and Putin was to meet with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and EU leaders Wednesday. EU officials praised Putin for throwing his support behind the American-led anti-terrorist coalition.
”Russia has impressed many by her willingness to set history aside and to align herself solidly with the international coalition against terrorism,” EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said in a speech to European business leaders.
A top Russian security official reiterated Tuesday that Russia would not take part in a U.S.-led attack in Afghanistan and said its neighbors in a loose grouping of former Soviet republics share that stance.
”The Commonwealth of Independent States should not take part in the land operation in Afghanistan. This is our common stand,” said Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service.
Patrushev spoke in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, after a two-day meeting with chiefs of the security services of other nations in the commonwealth, which includes Central Asian states that border Afghanistan.
He said the United States should proceed with an operation targeting bin Laden if it has detailed information connecting him to the attacks, but that any military operation should be precise and swift.
”We shouldn’t allow long-term actions of retribution, as a result of which the peaceful population of Afghanistan would suffer,” Patrushev said.
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