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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Nato hears US strike plans
US warplanes at RAF Lakenheath, UK
The US is not pressing its Nato allies for military help
The United States has briefed Nato allies about its plans for retaliation following the devastating attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Wolfowitz did not come here to ask for anything specific - rather, he explained the approach the US seems to be developing

Nato official
At the talks in Brussels, US Deputy Defence Minister Paul Wolfowitz sketched out the broad thrust of Washington's military and diplomatic war against terrorism, but made no specific demands of member states.

The one-day meeting of defence ministers, also attended by Russia's Sergei Ivanov, reaffirmed its support for the US, which blames Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden for the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The savage acts which we saw in New York and Washington... represent a direct threat to international peace and security

Nato chief Lord Robertson
Opening Wednesday's session, Nato Secretary-General George Robertson called the 11 September suicide attacks by hijacked airliners "an affront to everything that this alliance stands for".

Mr Wolfowitz had given what he called a full briefing, he said at a news conference later. But he stressed that no decisions had been taken.

Lord Robertson added that the US had so far made no request for military action from Nato.

Mr Wolfowitz made it clear that a lengthy struggle was in prospect, with the military option only one element in that struggle, officials said.

US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
Mr Wolfowitz is set to discuss the crisis with his Russian counterpart
But, contrary to expectations, evidence supporting the US view that this was an attack from abroad does not appear to have been provided, or asked for.

Under the terms of the Nato treaty, attacks initiated from abroad count as assaults on the entire alliance, justifying a collective response.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Brussels says that at this stage Nato's involvement seems very much one of background support.

In other developments:

  • The supreme leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, urges Afghans fleeing their homes to return, saying the threat of US military strikes is receding
  • Spanish police arrest six suspects in connection with the attacks on America
  • Thousands of people hold an anti-US demonstration in the Afghan capital Kabul, setting fire to parts of the former US embassy
  • UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urges Afghanistan's neighbours to open their borders to allow in desperate refugees - but Pakistan refuses
  • The US House of Representatives approves a $340bn defence-spending bill for next year, with a $6bn budget for anti-terrorism programmes
  • Pakistan warns against imposing a government on Afghanistan if the Taleban regime were to fall
  • The UN's aviation agency recommends new safety measures to increase security in the air

Russian contacts

American diplomats are saying the sharing of intelligence and broad support is what they want from Nato at the moment.

Click here for map of possible targets

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said there will be no single co-ordinated assault at the start of President George Bush's fight against global terrorism.

Mr Rumsfeld said the campaign would be long, difficult, and dangerous, and more lives might be lost.

Targeting Taleban

And US President George Bush stressed that the US wanted action against the ruling Taleban, not the Afghan people.

Afghan refugee crisis
UN fears 300,000 people may run out of food by end of week
Up to 20,000 massed on Pakistan border
UN surveying 75 possible sites in Pakistan for new refugee camps
About 3.5 million refugees already live in Iran and Pakistan - at least a million more displaced in Afghanistan

"The mission is to root out terrorists, to find them and bring them to justice.

"And the best way to do that, and one way to do that, is to ask for the co-operation of citizens within Afghanistan who may be tired of having the Taleban in place."

In a message to the American people, the Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, accused the United States of committing "atrocities" against the Muslim world.

"The American people must know that the sad events that took place recently were the result of their government's wrong policies," he said.

Afghans' plight

Up to 20,000 Afghan refugees are stuck in worsening conditions on the border with Pakistan, which is refusing to let them in.

The United Nations is gearing up to cope with up to a million Afghan refugees flooding into Pakistan in the event of an attack by the US-led coalition.

There are an estimated 3.5 million Afghan refugees already living in Iran and Pakistan and at least a million more displaced inside Afghanistan.

Click here to return

The BBC's James Robbins
"America made clear it would be a war run from Washington not Nato"
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson
"The campaign against terrorism will be long"
The BBC's David Eades
looks at the diplomacy that has resulted in a radical change in the landscape of international relations
See also:

26 Sep 01 | Americas
When will military action begin?
26 Sep 01 | Americas
US split on Bin Laden evidence
25 Sep 01 | Europe
A significant step for Russia
24 Sep 01 | South Asia
US military threats dismissed
24 Sep 01 | Business
Will Bush's asset freeze work?
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Analysis: Building a coalition
26 Sep 01 | Business
UN agency reviews airline security
26 Sep 01 | Americas
The Pentagon and the press
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans torch US embassy
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