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DAILY MAIL (London) September 18, 2001

AMERICAN N-STRIKES NOT RULED OUT

AMERICA has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons against any state which introduces biological, chemical or nuclear devices in the coming conflict. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld pointedly refused to rule out a nuclear response, and Pentagon sources say that his refusal is a direct warning to countries that sponsor terrorism.

'If Saddam Hussein finds a way to release anthrax into an American city and kills millions, it will be goodbye Baghdad,' says John Pike, head of the Global Security think tank in Washington. It is unlikely that nuclear weapons will be used in Afghanistan because there are no obvious nuclear targets and because the small strategic nuclear devices - such as nuclear-tipped artillery shells - have been withdrawn from the U.S. arsenal.

Nevertheless, when Mr Rumsfeld was asked if he would rule out the use of nuclear weapons, he replied: 'We've had this unbelievably powerful weapon for more than 55 years and it's not been fired in anger since 1945. 'A germ warfare attack anywhere in the world would bring about losses of lives in the millions.'

Political analysts interpret Mr Rumsfeld's carefully-worded response as not only a refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons but as a warning that they will be considered as a response to a germ warfare attack.

Senator John McCain, a powerful Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, has also insisted that while nuclear weapons are not currently considered to be a 'serious option' of reprisal, they have not been taken off the table entirely. 'You can't absolutely rule out any option,' says McCain. 'But there are so many ramifications of the use of a nuclear weapon that I don't believe that would be a serious option. I think there are so many other ways we could achieve the goals we seek.'

Pike adds: 'Almost all of the low-yield nuclear devices have been withdrawn from our arsenal since the end of the Cold War. And it would take a very long time to reintroduce them. 'But the Air Force still has gravity bombs of about 12 kilotons, the sort of size that was dropped over Hiroshima. We could incinerate Afghanistan's cities and kill millions of civilians. 'But while that might satiate the lust for revenge, it would turn the rest of the world against us and we are just not going to do it. 'Nuclear bombs are not the sort of weapons you use to hit a cave hidden in a mountain pass.'

Former Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger also said last night that nuclear weapons were not a serious option at this stage. He said that as a first goal, the U.S. would 'deal' with Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban supporters in Afghanistan. And he added: 'Our intelligence agencies don't know bin Laden's street number - or perhaps I should say cave number - but they know the general location. We will get him.'


Copyright 2001 Associated Newspapers Ltd.