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Bush Plans Video Conference From Maryland

Associated Press 9/24/01

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush plans to plot strategy in the war on terrorism in video conferences at Camp David, Md., this weekend, as the U.S. military races to the Middle East and thousands of reservists prepare to step back into uniform. America and the Taliban militia of Afghanistan, meanwhile, seem locked on a path toward conflict. Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, said Saturday an unmanned spy plane was shot down over Tashgurgan Pass in Afghanistan's northern Samangan province by Taliban soldiers armed with Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons.

“We are still trying to ascertain what country this plane belongs to,” Zaeef said in an interview.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Mike Milord, would not comment on the report. “As the Secretary of Defense has said, we will not discuss any operational issues,” he said. “We will not respond to each and every statement of the Taliban.”

Taliban's official Bakhtar news agency in Kabul also reported heavy fighting Saturday between the Taliban militia and opposition forces in northern Afghanistan.

En route to the region from the United States were a third aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, warships capable of launching ground-attack Tomahawk cruise missiles and jet fighters.

The administration also planned to step up its pursuit of terrorists in other ways.

Bush will soon sign an executive order naming terrorist organizations and specific terrorists around the world and freezing their U.S. assets, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president would chair his National Security Council meeting Saturday morning via teleconference from Camp David. On Sunday, when U.S. flags are returned to full staff for the first time since the attacks, Bush plans to join Marines at the presidential retreat.

It is widely expected that a U.S. campaign against the terrorists will be led by special operations forces such as helicopter-borne Army Rangers.

The country is still reeling from the Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon at a probable cost of more than 6,000 lives.

In New York, the tragedy was beginning to be measured by the absent: a husband, a son, a boss. And yet, hundreds of rescue workers in yellow rain slickers continued digging through the mangled wreckage of the towers, some still hoping survivors might be found.

Entertainers from Tom Hanks to Bruce Springsteen united Friday for an extraordinary televised benefit to raise money for victims.

The unprecedented event was being shown on more than 30 TV networks, including all the six biggest broadcasters - ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB - simultaneously.

The economy has continued its slide. Wall Street closed out a horrendous week in which the Dow Jones industrial average lost 1,369.70 points, its biggest one-week point drop in history.

Analysts said the plunge in stocks will further depress consumer spending as Americans watch their portfolios shrink.

Congress on Friday approved a $15 billion relief package for the airline industry, which has been in crisis since the attacks.

The 356-54 House vote in favor of the rescue plan followed 96-1 approval by the Senate. It now goes to Bush, who strongly supports it.

“A dagger was put into the heart of our economy as planes were put into these buildings,” said House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. “Acting to save this industry and keep it going forward is in the highest and best interest of all the people in our country.”

The measure was the second installment of massive financial aid approved by Congress to soften the impact of the nation's worst experience with terrorism.

Two closely watched forecasting groups - Blue Chip Economic Indicators and the National Association for Business Economics - surveyed economists after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Both released surveys this week finding that an overwhelming majority of economists believe a recession is unavoidable.

America was still searching for answers in the attacks. The international investigation into who planned the hijackings continued to uncover clues of an even broader scheme.

Federal prosecutors disclosed Friday they charged a man with trying to fly into Chicago with an illegal passport and airline uniforms on the day of the suicide hijackings.

In a criminal complaint unsealed in Illinois, prosecutors said Nageeb Abdul Jabar Mohamed Al-Hadi was flying aboard a German airliner on Sept. 11 when it was grounded in Toronto as a result of the attacks. He remains detained in Canada.

In London, anti-terrorist police arrested three men and one woman in connection with the terrorist attacks.

In France, police detained seven people in connection with an investigation into alleged plans to attack U.S. interests in France.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence agencies are collaborating on a report that details the evidence linking bin Laden, the exiled Saudi multimillionaire, to the attacks, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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