WASHINGTON -- President Bush sternly rejected a Taliban offer to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a third country as U.S. jets began a second week of bombing. ''They must have not heard. There's no negotiations,'' the president said Sunday.
The number of people exposed to anthrax grew to 12 with the addition of a police officer and two lab technicians in New York. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson declared that attempts to transmit the deadly bacteria through the mail ''is an act of terrorism.''
However, officials said they still do not have evidence linking the anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York to terrorists.
''We should consider this potential that it is linked,'' Attorney General John Ashcroft said on NBC's ''Meet the Press.'' ''It is premature at this time to decide whether there is a direct link.''
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice sought to quell fears that the terrorists may have crude nuclear weapons. A defense official said last week that if the terrorists have obtained any nuclear material, they may be able to make a weapon that could spread radiation without an actual destructive explosion. ''We have no credible evidence at this point of a specific threat of that kind,'' Rice said on CBS's "60 Minutes.''
Bush Cabinet members mobilized at home and abroad Sun-day.
Ashcroft said investigators are looking to question about 190 people who may have knowledge of terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Pow-ell left for a high-priority diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India aimed at keeping tensions between those nations from further complicating the military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.
Returning to the White House after a weekend at the Camp David retreat, Bush reiterated four clear conditions the Taliban must meet before bombing will be stopped.
''All they got to do is turn him (bin Laden) over, and his colleagues and the thugs he hides, as well as destroy his camps and (release) the innocent people being held hostage in Afghanistan,'' Bush said.
The latter was an apparent reference to eight foreign aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan. The administration had avoided calling them ''hostages.'' In his speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, Bush said they had been ''unjustly imprisoned.'' A White House spokeswoman said she believed it was the first time Bush had publicly used the word ''hostage.''
Bush said there would be no negotiations even as a Taliban leader suggested the Afghan government would be willing to discuss surrendering bin Laden to a third country if the United States provided evidence of his guilt and stopped bombing.
''There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt,'' Bush said. ''We know he's guilty.''
Overseas, a U.S. military official said the bombing of Afghanistan has entered a ''cleanup mode.''
U.S. warplanes have destroyed nearly all of the targets originally assigned to them, including militant training camps and weapons storage areas, the captain of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier said Sunday. His identify could not be disclosed under military rules for covering the operation.
The new strikes destroyed Kabul's international telephone exchange, severing one of the last means of communication with the outside world.
Bush ignored a reporter's question about whether he wants to install a new government if the Taliban falls. Rice sought to strike a delicate balance on the issue.
''America cannot choose the future government of Afghanistan. Only the Afghan people can chose the future government of Afghanistan,'' she said. But, she added, ''We have no reason to leave an Afghanistan that its neighbors have to fear for instability.''
Earlier Sunday, a spokesperson for the Taliban Embassy in Pakistan said that sending bin Laden to the United States for a trial would be ''a joke'' and that it was a mistake for U.S. officials to focus narrowly on him when other terrorists are in a position to strike.
Ashcroft dismissed the explanation as propaganda, and addressed a fresh round of terrorist threats against Americans and world leaders by bin Laden supporters.
On the legal front, Ashcroft asked Americans to remain vigilant for signs of another terrorist attack as ''a preparedness, not a paralysis, not a panic.''
Thompson raised the possibility that the anthrax was being spread by a domestic source.
''It could be somebody holding a grudge,'' or ''a copycat kind of situation,'' he said on ''Fox News Sunday.'' Thompson also sought to reassure Americans the government was strengthening its response against any bioterrorist threats.
There are more than 2 million doses of medication to treat 2 million people for 60 days for exposure to anthrax. The government has thousands of medical professionals on alert and tons of medical supplies, ready to go where needed, Thomp-son said.
He also said the administration will ask Congress this week for $1 billion to increase the amount of purchases for all those supplies ''just to make sure that Americans ... any place in this world ... are going to be protected.''
In New York, a police officer and two lab technicians involved in detecting the case of anthrax in an NBC employee are being treated with antibiotics for exposure to the bacteria, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani disclosed.
In Nevada, health officials said four people who may have come into contact with a contaminated letter sent to a Microsoft office tested negative for anthrax. Five employees and one family member are believed to have been exposed to the letter.
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