President Bush continued his campaign to fight terrorism as the global isolation on Afghanistan grew today.
The United Arab Emirates cut ties with the Taliban, the Islamic militia that claims to be the ruling regime of Afghanistan. Now, only two nations, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government.
The move gave a significant boost to the U.S. diplomatic efforts to put pressure on the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, whom President Bush has named the "prime suspect" in the deadly Sept. 11 hijacking attacks on America. Bush has authorized a military mobilization that could be used against Afghanistan.
"The United Arab Emirates does not believe that it is possible to continue to maintain diplomatic relations with a government that refuses to respond to the clear will of the international community," an unnamed foreign ministry official told the UAE official news agency.
In Afghanistan, where opposition forces launched heavy fighting, a Taliban official said the regime shot down an unmanned spy plane in a northern province and were trying to determine what nation it belonged to. The Afghan Islamic Press, an Afghan news agency based in Islamabad, Pakistan, first reported that it was a U.S. spy plane, then said it wasn't sure which country it was from.
Pentagon officials declined to comment on the reports, saying their policy was not to respond to "each and every claim made by the Taliban."
Bush Meets With Top Advisers
President Bush held a national security meeting by videoconference from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. Joining Bush at Camp David were national security adviser Condoleeza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet and White House chief of staff Andrew Card.
Following on his Thursday speech to a joint session of Congress, where Bush proclaimed the United States would confront terrorism with force, the president used his Saturday radio address to soothe the nation's economic fears.
"Our economy has had a shock," Bush said. "Yet, for all these challenges, the American economy is fundamentally strong." See Story
Also today, Bush continued his outreach to world leaders. The president spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A White House aide described it as "a long call" and said the two men discussed cooperation in the battle against terrorism.
In other developments today:
The FBI wants to question 240 people in connection with the terror attacks, law enforcement sources said. More than six people have already been arrested and are being held as material witnesses in the investigation.
Pope John Paul arrived in Kazakhstan and declared that disputes between nations should be solved through dialogue and not force.
For the second day, pro-Taliban parties protested in Pakistan, but opposition to President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to help the United States track down bin Laden appeared to be fading. About 500 people marched through the town of Peshawar on the Afghanistan border and burned an effigy of Bush.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly resisting a U.S. request to use a new command center on a Saudi-located military base to stage any part of a possible air campaign against Afghanistan or other nations in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, according to the Washington Post. Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to convince the Saudis to reverse a decade-old policy prohibiting the United States from staging such air operations from their air bases.
Struggle Evident on Cockpit Voice Recorder
As investigators continue their worldwide hunt for suspects and evidence into the terrorist hijackings, some clues are being pulled from the cockpit voice recorder found in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed outside Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, killing all 44 passengers and crew.
A desperate struggle took place aboard the hijacked plane before it plunged into a reclaimed strip mine in Western Pennsylvania at about 500 miles an hour, law enforcement officials say. The recorder, which uses microphones in the pilots' headsets and on the cockpit ceiling, picked up sounds from a brawl as well as exclamations in Arabic and English, officials said. The specifics of the struggle have not been discerned from the recording, they said.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller have both heard the recording, officials said. On a visit to the Shanksville site on Thursday, Mueller said, "We believe those passengers on this jet were absolute heroes and their actions during this flight were heroic."
Based on accounts from family members and telephone operators who spoke with passengers of Flight 93 prior to the crash, authorities had already believed a struggle had probably taken place between passengers and the hijackers, resulting in the downing of the plane into an empty field instead of an unknown high-profile target in Washington.
Flight 93 was one of four passenger jets hijacked on the morning of Sept. 11. Two jets originating in Boston were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center; a fourth plane left Washington Dulles International airport and eventually dived into the Pentagon.
Both "black boxes," the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, were found at the Pentagon site, but the voice recorder was too badly burned to recover any information. No black boxes have been found at the World Trade Center site.
Was Today Significant to Terror Campaign?
Sept. 22 has been a date of some concern to U.S. law enforcement officials, since the FBI has found paperwork and e-mails from the dead hijackers referencing today's date, and law enforcement officials also believe some of the dead hijackers had booked flights for today.
Ashcroft called acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Thursday to alert them to the threat of possible terrorist activity in Boston, where two of the hijacked flights originated. But on Friday, Justice Department and local officials downplayed the likelihood of attacks on the city.
"We have … no new information that has caused us to be alarmed," Merino told reporters. "There are no specific threats to the safety of the people of Boston."
A senior intelligence official told ABCNEWS that as far as future threats go, the government did not have "specific dates or methods for those attacks."
What is happening today is the rescue effort in New York at the site of the demolished World Trade Center. Even though a survivor has not been found for more than a week, officials refuse to proclaim it soley a recovery effort.
The number of dead or missing in all three Sept. 11 crash sites remains at 6,736.