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Pakistan Says that Evidence Links bin Laden to Attacks

By Rone Tempest and Marjorie Miller

In a significant boost from a key Muslim nation to the global anti-terrorism campaign, Pakistan officials said Thursday that “sufficient evidence” has been collected to link Saudi militant Osama bin Laden to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The announcement came after British Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed some of the first details of the international case against bin Laden in a speech before Parliament in London.

Blair, who will be in Pakistan Friday, said that at least three of the hijackers in the attacks on New York and near Washington have been “positively identified” as members of bin Laden’s al-Qaida network. One of the hijackers, Blair said, also was connected by evidence to the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa and to the attack last year on the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen.

And in Washington, President Bush pledged $320 million worth of food and medicine to aid Afghan refugees and those who remain in the beleaguered country, the administration’s latest effort to show its concern for the civilian population even as it targets Afghanistan’s Taliban regime for possible attack.

The relief is to be distributed by the United Nations and private aid groups, such as the Red Cross. The U.S. military also may air-drop supplies into parts of Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s position on the case against bin Laden is critical to the U.S.-led anti-terrorism efforts. The Islamic nation shares a 1,400-mile border with Afghanistan, where the Saudi is believed to be hiding, and is the last state to officially recognize the Taliban government.

On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin presented a 20-page summary of evidence against bin Laden to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan officials said more documentation was delivered Wednesday night.

“We have seen the material that was provided to us by the American side,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan said Thursday. “This material certainly provides sufficient basis for indictment in a court of law.”

Privately, a senior Pakistan official was less restrained, describing the material as “impressive” and “weighty.”

In London, Blair presented to the special session of Parliament a dossier against bin Laden .

According to the document, the intelligence sources have confirmed that bin Laden told associates prior to last month’s attacks that he was preparing a major operation in the United States and that they should return to Afghanistan from other parts of the world by Sept. 10.

However, Blair gave the lawmakers few details, saying that evidence was withheld to protect intelligence sources.

“There is other intelligence we cannot disclose of an even more direct nature indicating guilt,” Blair said.

The dossier cautions that the information did not amount to a prosecutable case. But Blair said the evidence was incontrovertible.

“We have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network were responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11,” Blair told Parliament.

Blair said that bin Laden and his al-Qaida network were able to carry out the attacks on the U.S. “because of their close alliance with the Taliban regime” in Afghanistan.