Rumsfeld Mideast Last Show of Diplomacy?

U.S. officials have said said they will not negotiate with the Taliban over bin Laden, but they have presented material to other nations. So far, 18 NATO allies and several other nations, convinced of bin Laden's involvement in the attacks, have pledged their support behind the U.S. war on terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Taliban finds itself increasingly isolated:

A group of Pakistani clerics today canceled a mission to meet with Taliban leaders in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Ameerul Azeem, spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Islami or Islamic Party, told The Associated Press the trip was canceled because the clerics saw no hopes of convincing the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and avoid the threat of war.

Preparing for Chemical, Biological Attacks

In Washington, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee conducted a hearing Wednesday on how the United States can prepare for and combat a terrorist attack involving chemical and biological weapons.

"People, Americans, should not be scared into believing they need gas masks and people should not be frightened into hoarding medicine and food. There is nothing we know of to warrant such actions," Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, told the committee.

Some senators want Congress to spend $1.4 billion to improve the nation's health system so it could better fight bioterrorism. Thompson said he has asked the Bush administration for $800 million, most to be sent to local and state public health systems.

"The threat is real. The overall probability is low … yet it's increasing," said Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who introduced the spending bill along with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Thompson said 400 tons of medical supplies are kept at eight secret sites around the country. Vaccines and antibiotics could be shipped anywhere within 12 hours, he said.

The Sept. 11 attacks involved four hijacked airplanes, three of which crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Shortly after the planes crashed, some officials feared they may have carried biological weapons, although this was not the case.

State Department officials have issued warnings about more possible terror attacks on U.S. soil and the specter of a biological attack has grown. Officials have evidence that some of the hijackers may have considered chemical warfare involving the use of crop dusters.

The Bush administration insists the United States is ready for such an attack, although some in Congress disagree.

In other developments:

President Bush visited New York for a second time since the attacks on the World Trade Center, visiting grade-school children who saw one hijacked jetliner crash into the second twin tower, and visiting with firefighters. He also promised to ask Congress to pass an economic stimulus package worth $60 billion to $75 billion

The United States asked NATO for permission to use the airspace of the 18 other member-nations, as well as for use of European air bases and access to NATO fuel pipelines, among other requests, according to sources in the alliance.

A deployment order for 1,000 troops has been given to the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y. The order puts the troops on alert, ready to move instantly when a destination is determined.

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