Likely bin Laden Has Chemical, Bio Weapons

WASHINGTON?Osama bin Laden likely has some chemical or biological weapons, and U.S. forces have bombed some sites in Afghanistan that could have been involved in producing them, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday.

Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials said they doubt bin Laden’s al Qaeda network has a nuclear weapon, as bin Laden told a Pakistani journalist in a recent interview.

“I think it’s unlikely that they have a nuclear weapon, but on the other hand, with the determination they have, they may very well,” Rumsfeld said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The defense secretary and other officials said they were worried, however, that the al Qaeda network could have weapons of mass destruction that possibly include radiological weapons?mixtures of conventional explosives and nuclear material designed to spread radiation without a nuclear detonation.

“We have every intelligence operation practically in the world on the problem of al Qaeda and the Taliban and their weapons of mass destruction at this point,” the president’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The United States has identified several sites in Afghanistan where al Qaeda may have been producing weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld said. Some of them have been bombed, some have not, and others have not been found, he said.

“If we had good information on a chemical or biological development area, we would do something about it,” Rumsfeld said on CBS. “It is not an easy thing to do. We have every desire in the world to prevent the terrorists from using these capabilities.”

Getting information that a site may be producing weapons of mass destruction “faces you with a situation. Are you best taking it out or are you best learning more about it,” Rumsfeld said earlier on “Fox News Sunday.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that the United States had identified three possible chemical or biological weapons sites in Afghanistan used by al Qaeda, and had avoided bombing them.

President Bush has said the anti-Taliban northern alliance should not take over the Afghan capital of Kabul, preferring to wait for a broad based, post-Taliban government to be formed. Rumsfeld said that was important to encourage anti Taliban resistance by some tribes of the Taliban’s Pashtun ethnic group in Afghanistan’s south.

The northern alliance is largely made up of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, not Afghanistan’s main Pashtun ethnic group.

“We need them to oppose the Taliban so they will have a voice in post-Taliban business,” Rumsfeld said.

An official with the northern alliance said Sunday that “it would be ideal” if a broad coalition of all ethnic groups could come together before Kabul is taken. Abdullah, the opposition’s foreign minister, said the alliance already includes some Pashtun forces.

The United States has had difficulty recruiting anti Taliban forces in Afghanistan’s south. The Taliban captured and executed opposition Pashtun figure Abdul Haq last month, for example.

Besides, Rumsfeld said, “Kabul is not the military prize of prizes.” The Taliban’s capital is in the southern city of Kandahar, and Kabul has been so devastated by two decades of war that its 1 million people will need immediate humanitarian aid when the city changes hands, Rumsfeld said.