Bush Rejects Taliban Offer: ‘No Negotiations’

WASHINGTON?President Bush on Sunday sternly rejected a Taliban offer to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a third country, as U.S. jets persisted in their bombing. ?They must have not heard. There?s no negotiations,? the president said.

The number of people exposed to anthrax grew to include a police officer and lab technicians in the New York case. A Bush administration official said attempts to transmit the poison through the mail should be regarded as terrorism.

?It certainly is an act of terrorism to send anthrax through the mail,? Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said.

Officials said they still do not have evidence linking the anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York to the terrorists.

?We should consider this potential that it is linked,? Attorney General John Ashcroft said on NBC?s ?Meet the Press.?

?It is premature at this time to decide whether there is a direct link,? he said.

Ashcroft said investigators are looking for about 190 people they want to question about possible knowledge of terrorism. Bush Cabinet members mobilized at home and abroad.

Secretary of State Colin Powell left Sunday for a high priority diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India aimed at keeping tensions between those two nations from further complicating the military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.

Returning to the White House after a weekend at the Camp David retreat, Bush reiterated four clear conditions the Taliban must meet before bombing will be stopped.

?All they?ve got to do is turn him (bin Laden) over, and his colleagues and the thugs he hides, as well as destroy his camps and (release) the innocent people being held hostage in Afghanistan,? he said.

The latter was an apparent reference to eight foreign aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Bush said there would be no negotiations even as a Taliban leader suggested the Afghan government would be willing to discuss surrendering bin Laden to a third country if the U.S. provided evidence of his guilt and stopped bombing.

?There?s no need to discuss innocence or guilt,? Bush said. ?We know he’s guilty.?

Overseas, a U.S. military official said the bombing of Afghanistan has entered a ?cleanup mode.?

U.S. warplanes have destroyed nearly all of the targets originally assigned to them, including militant training camps and weapons storage areas, the captain of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier said Sunday. His identity could not be disclosed under military rules for covering the operation.

On the legal front, Ashcroft asked Americans to remain vigilant for signs of another attack as ?a preparedness, not a paralysis, not a panic.? Thompson sought to reassure Americans the government was strengthening its response against any bioterrorist threats.

There are more than 2 million doses of medication to treat 2 million people for 60 days for exposure to anthrax.

The government has thousands of medical professionals on alert and tons of medical supplies ready to go where needed, to respond to bioterrorism, Thompson said.

He also said the administration will ask Congress this week for $1 billion to increase the amount of purchases for all those supplies ?just to make sure that Americans?any place in this world?are going to be protected.?