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Text: Thompson on ABC's 'This Week'

eMediaMillWorks


eMediaMillWorks
Sunday, October 14, 2001

Following is the transcript of ABC's "This Week," hosted by Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Guests: Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, Postmaster General John Potter, Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney, ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson, security expert and former secret service agent Chuck Vance, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, Washington Post columnist George F. Will and George Stephanopoulos.

DONALDSON: This morning, reports of more anthrax incidents. Are we experiencing a second wave of terrorism? Or are these isolated cases? We'll speak with Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

ROBERTS: Plus, how is the U.S. Postal Service handling the situation? We'll ask Postmaster General John Potter.

DONALDSON: Also this week, as American law enforcement remains on heightened alert, we'll get the latest from the front lines with Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney and corporate security expert Chuck Vance.

ROBERTS: And eight days into the war, Secretary of State Colin Powell travels to Pakistan to keep the coalition together. George Stephanopoulos has an exclusive interview with Foreign Minister Abdul Satar (ph) in Islamabad.

ANNOUNCER: That's This Week, featuring George Will. And joining the round table, ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran.

Now, from Washington, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.

DONALDSON: Welcome to our program.

The fear of anthrax is very real this weekend here at home as a handful of new cases are being investigated. Five more employees of the media company in Florida have tested positive for exposure to the disease. A second NBC News employee in New York may be at risk. Test results not yet in. And a letter received in Nevada has tested positive for anthrax spores.

We'll devote a good deal of our program to examining this and other bioterrorism menaces, and the government's response.

Cokie?

ROBERTS: That's right, Sam, but that's all on the home front. Of course, the war in Afghanistan goes on. There was bombing overnight. And today in Pakistan, demonstrations.

George Stephanopoulos joins us from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right, Cokie, another night of heavy bombing in Afghanistan, as you said, and that has sparked new demonstrations here in Pakistan. Three protesters were killed in the southern city of Jacobabad, where several thousand protesters clashed with police near a military base that's now home to American soldiers and equipment.

Also this afternoon, I sat down with Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen, who said the Taliban leader Mullah Omar survived a U.S. missile strike on his car earlier this week.

He also claimed that 400 civilians have been killed in the bombing and vowed that the Taliban would not surrender Osama bin Laden even if Afghanistan is destroyed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAHEEN: It is better to be destroyed than to surrender to might and arrogance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Shaheen denied reports in the American press that Osama bin Laden's forces have created chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in Afghanistan.

Cokie?

ROBERTS: Thank you, George. George will be back later in the program with an exclusive interview with Pakistan's foreign minister.

And now ABC's chief investigative correspondent in New York, Brian Ross.

ROSS: Cokie, the discovery of anthrax at a third location in a letter postmarked in Malaysia and sent to a Microsoft office in Nevada has put the investigation into a much sharper focus.

Investigators say this third location points more in the direction of a group than one person, and Malaysia is a known stronghold of the bin Laden Al Qaeda network. The FBI says there's no evidence of any connection. But Vice President Cheney said Friday such a connection cannot be dismissed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I think the only responsible thing for us to do is to proceed on the basis that it could be linked. And obviously that means you've got to spend time as well, as we've known now for some time, focusing on other types of attacks besides the one that we experienced on September 11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROSS: Over the weekend, the FBI said that the anthrax letter sent to NBC was postmarked in Trenton, New Jersey, on September 18, and that a second NBC employee is now being treated for symptoms.

Meantime, in Florida, authorities said five more employees at the American Media Company had tested positive for anthrax antibodies in their blood. Two of them worked near the desk of Bob Stevens, the only person to die from the anthrax letters. In fact, leading authorities say what's going on seems to be designed more to terrorize than to kill, and that even some of the so-called hoaxes could be connected, because they spread panic and divert already stretched-thin law enforcement authorities.

On that point, there was a new direct threat issued yesterday by the Al Qaeda organization, in a videotaped statement broadcast by the Arab news channel Al Jazeera, an unusually specific one, urging Muslims who live in America and in England to stay away from planes and not to live in high-rises.

It was all termed propaganda by officials in Washington, who have issued both warnings of an imminent attack and then pleas to go shopping and return to normal, causing some people in law enforcement and intelligence to complain that political leaders are giving mixed, contradictory warnings, often based on an inexperienced reading of raw intelligence.

And others say the handling of the anthrax cases has been marked by inexcusable bungling and ineptitude, with health officials, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, being accused by officials of the company in Florida of a serious failure to communicate.

Sam?

DONALDSON: Thank you, Brian. Brian Ross reporting.

And joining us now is the secretary of health and human services, Tommy Thompson. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

THOMPSON: Well, good to be on your program. Thank you very much, Sam.

DONALDSON: Does it now appear that these anthrax cases that we've just heard reported on are linked? And can we expect more here in the United States?

THOMPSON: Sam, we don't know if there are going to be more or not. We cannot say conclusively that they have been linked. You can make that supposition, but there's no conclusive evidence whatsoever that they've been linked.

And I also would like to correct that the five in Florida still is preliminary. There has not been a confirmation of those five in Florida that was just indicated in the report.

DONALDSON: Well, what we said was that they've been exposed to it...

THOMPSON: They've been exposed...

DONALDSON: ... which is quite correct. We do not know yet whether they've contracted the disease.

Mr. Secretary, Americans are afraid.

THOMPSON: There's no question about it. And what we got to do is, we got to get the evidence out there. And I think we're doing that. We're trying to make sure that we do not speculate. We're trying to make sure that what we say is absolutely proven, and it's been laboratorily tested, and that we can say for a fact that this has really happened.

So far, on a lot of these cases, we have not been able to do so.

DONALDSON: You've been adamant that the United States government is prepared to take care of any contingency in this question of bioterrorism, and a lot of people say that's not true.

THOMPSON: Well, Sam, we are able to respond, and we still, of course, have got improvements to make. But we can respond, as we have in Florida, as we have in Washington, D.C., as we have in New York. And we'll be able to continue to do so if there are some more cases.

And if you look at it, there's only been one confirmed case in Florida, two exposures, one confirmed case in New York, and a possibility of another exposure. And so far, it has been handled very adroitly and sophisticatedly by CDC and all the state and local and federal health officials.

DONALDSON: Sir, the government has responded. The question is, has it been able to respond effectively? And could it respond effectively if there was a large-scale attack? Let me remind you of what happened last June when an operation code named Dark Winter was conducted at Andrews Air Force Base, and several senior people here in the United States, including Sam Nunn and the governor of Oklahoma participated, and Operation Dark Winter proved that if one single case of this disease--and in this case it was smallpox...

THOMPSON: Right.

DONALDSON: ... got started in Oklahoma, there'd be 5,000 cases before they could get hold of it. And a GAO study, which was conducted after September 11, has said that there are 11 different government agencies here in Washington poorly trying to coordinate this, and that not only the federal government but state and local governments are unprepared.

Have you read that study?

THOMPSON: Yes, we've read the study, and we have taken all kinds of precautions to change any of the failures that came about as a result of that experiment.

And I would like to point out...

DONALDSON: You say change it. I mean, have you already...

THOMPSON: Yes.

DONALDSON: ... corrected the failures...

THOMPSON: We have corrected a lot.

DONALDSON: ... just in 30 days?

THOMPSON: We have corrected. This happened last May. We have corrected a lot of things since last May, and we're correcting things each and every day. We have 7,000 medical professionals throughout this country divided up in 90 medical assistance teams ready to go into any particular state or locality in order to assist the state and local health officials.

We have 400 tons of medical supplies that we can move that are strategically located throughout the United States at eight sites that we can move into a particular site within 12 hours. In the case of New York, we were able to move it in within seven hours. In the case of Washington, D.C., we were able to move it in within hours.

We're able to move. We're--got all state health, health and local health departments on notice. We have a hot line in to CDC. We are in daily communication with all the state health departments, all the epidemiologies in those health departments. We have 81 labs that are connected to the CDC lab, all connected, that are discussing things on a daily basis.

All of this has taken place, and we are ready to move if in case something happens.

DONALDSON: You mention the CDC. The CDC says, and you say, rather, that you have 2 million vaccine portions for smallpox.

THOMPSON: We have 15-point...

DONALDSON: Stockpiled.

THOMPSON: ... 15.4 million, Sam. We have--we are able to treat 2 million individuals for 60 days...

DONALDSON: That's right, right.

THOMPSON: ... for anthrax. And we have just--and we're going up on the Capitol held this week...

DONALDSON: But the CDC says you need 10 million people to be treated for anthrax.

THOMPSON: But we're going up on--we're going--No, CDC does not say that. CDC says that we have 2 million, 2 million, and we have enough dosage to treat 2 million people for 60 days. And we're going up on Capitol Hill this week and requesting an additional billion dollars to increase that to 12 million so that we can handle 12 million individuals in America for up to 60 days.

So I'm telling people, you don't need to hoard Ciproflax (ph) or Dino (ph) or penicillin. All of the anthrax we've seen has been very responsive to all of these antibiotics. And we have over 400 tons right now in our supply. And we're going to go in and purchase enough more to deal with 12 million Americans if they come in contact with anthrax.

And so I think we are aptly and fully--will be fully supplied. We need some more. We have some other problems that we're addressing, such as more local and state health communications. We want to be able to expand the education for emergency wards.

These are some problems that we're still working on. But overall, we can respond, and that's--and we have been able to, every indication, we've been able to respond.

DONALDSON: Well, I know I may be pushing this too far, and I hope you'll forgive me, but...

THOMPSON: No, that's fine...

DONALDSON: ... there are a lot of people...

THOMPSON: ... I want to get this information out.

DONALDSON: All right. I have a report, sir, that says the CDC says the intended target of antibiotics for pharmaceuticals in treatment of anthrax is 10 million people, not 2 million people. Do you really dispute that?

THOMPSON: I don't dispute that. But we have 2 million right now, and we're going to go in and buy...

DONALDSON: But if we need 10 million, and we only have 2 million...

THOMPSON: But we are going to have 12 million, we're going to have additional 10 million. That's...

DONALDSON: But we don't have them today, sir.

THOMPSON: We don't have them now, but we have 2 million. And we can handle all of the situations. We're treating 1,000 people in Florida. We're treating several hundred in New York. And we still have enough to treat to with 2 million, and we're going into the marketplace very quickly and purchase an additional 10 million so that 12 million Americans can be covered for up to 60 days, 2 million more than CDC.

DONALDSON: And people shouldn't hoard--people shouldn't hoard Cipro, but I know...

THOMPSON: They should not, or gas masks.

DONALDSON: ... I notice the State Department has asked all of its embassies across the world to get a three-day supply of Cipro in immediately for all its employees.

THOMPSON: But that's for embassies across the world. Here we have eight strategically located pharmaceutical supplies that can be moved within hours, and we'll be able to move them within 12 hours to any location in the United States.

DONALDSON: You have just appointed Dr. Donald A. Henderson, who is world renowned because he helped eradicate smallpox.

THOMPSON: And he meets with me almost on a daily basis.

DONALDSON: And he's the chair of your advisory commission on bioterrorism. And he says, and I quote, ``It is difficult for me to exaggerate the deficiencies of our present public health capabilities (inaudible).''

THOMPSON: And that's why I brought him in, to help make sure that we look at those deficiencies and correct them. And (inaudible)...

DONALDSON: But if there are deficiencies, how can you say we're prepared today?

THOMPSON: We are prepared today to respond, Sam. And we have been able to respond. Look at what has taken place. There was a problem in New York, we were in there within seven hours. We were able to move 700 medical professionals into the city of New York and into the city of Washington, D.C., into the state of Pennsylvania.

We have 7,000 health professionals that are divided up into 90 medical assistance teams. We have 6,000 in the commission corps, medical professionals that are able to move in. We have over several hundred in CDC, several hundred doctors and professionals and scientists in at NIH. We have contacted the state medical societies. We have contacted the national medical societies, the hospital associations, and put them all on alert.

All of those individuals have volunteered to say, We will provide you with the resources necessary.

When you put this all together, there were deficiencies, we are correcting those deficiencies...

DONALDSON: There are deficiencies, you just...

THOMPSON: There were.

DONALDSON: You've just acknowledged we don't have enough anthrax vaccine for 10 million.

THOMPSON: And we are in the process of purchasing 10 million...

DONALDSON: So there are at the moment deficiencies.

THOMPSON: No, there are not.

DONALDSON: Well, I'm really stumped here.

THOMPSON: There are 2 million--no, there are 2 million, we need--we should have, we should have 12 million.

DONALDSON: So we don't have them yet.

THOMPSON: We don't have them yet.

DONALDSON: So there are deficiencies.

THOMPSON: But as of right now, we could respond, and as we--as you indicated...

DONALDSON: To 2 million.

THOMPSON: ... we have.

DONALDSON: All right. Sir, you've been very kind to go back and forth with me on this, and I know our time is limited.

THOMPSON: Yes.

DONALDSON: But there was a report in ``The Washington Times'' that the terrorists may have acquired some sort of nuclear capability.

THOMPSON: There's a lot of rumors out there, and we're...

DONALDSON: But (inaudible) tell us...

THOMPSON: ... checking out everything...

DONALDSON: ... what you know about that.

THOMPSON: I do not know. All I've heard is that--you know, I've heard the same speculation. What we're trying to do in the health department is when there's a health concern, we look at the health problems and we try to come up with a remedy. We think we have been able to do so very effectively so far, and we think we'll be able to...

DONALDSON: Well, the senior...

THOMPSON: ... do so (inaudible)...

DONALDSON: ... defense...

THOMPSON: In regards to a nuclear thing, that's going to have to be from the intelligence sources or from FBI. That's not...

DONALDSON: I ask you, because a senior defense official says maybe they have the capability of not a fissionable bomb...

THOMPSON: Well...

DONALDSON: ... but the kind of explosive that would generate radiation or disseminate radiation. Are you prepared with radiation devices to help the public should that occur?

THOMPSON: We are, we are able to respond if in fact that takes place, Sam.

DONALDSON: So you are prepared, you have them.

THOMPSON: We--we--we...

DONALDSON: Suits, dosimeters...

THOMPSON: We don't have all of that stuff, no, at this point in time. We have--we will be able to respond. But we can't take care of every contingency at this point in time. We are prepared for what we know is out there, and that's what we want to make sure the American public know, that if in case there's an anthrax, case of smallpox, we have pharmaceuticals and the vaccines and the antibiotics ready to move into any particular location.

DONALDSON: Secretary Thompson, it's a tough job that you're in, and we...

THOMPSON: It's a very tough job.

DONALDSON: ... we all know this, and we appreciate your coming this morning. It's at the moment almost a no-win job.

THOMPSON: That is correct.

DONALDSON: Thanks very much for being with us, and I hope you'll come back.

THOMPSON: I certainly will. Thank you.

DONALDSON: All right.

Still ahead, an exclusive interview with Pakistan's foreign minister, plus, the round table.

But first, when we come back, what measures are being taken to protect the public? We'll speak with the postmaster general, Philadelphia's police commissioner, and a security expert, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Joining us now is the postmaster general of the United States, John Potter. Thanks so much for being with us.

POTTER: Good morning, Cokie, thank you for having me here.

ROBERTS: Now, all of these cases or exposures to anthrax that we've learned about have come through the mail. What are you doing to protect us from our mail?

POTTER: The best thing that we can do is to educate America, educate America on the risk. Today we handle 680 million pieces of mail on a daily basis. Since September 11, we've delivered over 15 billion pieces of mail. We have a handful of cases that are being investigated.

So the first thing to do is understand that there's an infinitesimally small risk out there. However, let me assure that even one case is one too many.

So people need to be aware of what's in the mail.

ROBERTS: But that's once we get the mail. Is there something you're doing before we get the mail to screen it, to take a look at it, to see if it's mail that should be moving?

POTTER: Well, just as we're educating America, we're educating our 800,000 employees as to what to look for in the mail. We're telling them, just as we're telling America, look for envelopes without postage, look for anything that looks suspicious. If they see powder or dust or dirt around mail where it shouldn't be, or if they see something that looks odd to them, then we're asking them to bring that to our attention.

We're asking Americans to do the same thing when they receive their mail. You know, again, the best defense here is awareness.

ROBERTS: Now, the NBC letter that turned out to be the bad letter, the letter that seemed to be contaminated, looked perfectly normal. It wasn't the crazy handwriting letter, it was a perfectly normal-looking letter that came from Trenton, New Jersey. How is one to protect oneself against that?

POTTER: I don't want to get into a lot of detail around that letter because of the criminal investigation under way. But again, people should be aware of who's sending them the letter, and there are things that would have them--give them cause to be suspicious.

The key is, what do you do if you have a suspicious letter? And what we're advising Americans to do is to contact local law enforcement. They will be in touch with the appropriate health agencies. The postal inspection service, the FBI, and others are ready to help and get involved, to investigate each and every incidence.

ROBERTS: Now, we heard Brian Ross in his report and Vice President Cheney say there might be a link among these letters. Is there a way for you--I know you're looking at millions of pieces of mail--but for you to look at the mail and see if there are other links?

POTTER: Again, that's part of a criminal investigation effort. I don't want to go there right now. It's not appropriate for me to comment.

What's appropriate for me to do is to tell the American public that they need to be aware of what's coming to them. They need to handle what they receive appropriately. If they do get something suspicious, they need to isolate that piece, not--make sure that they are the only one that handles it. Make sure they wash their hands, and make sure that they contact the appropriate authorities. Dial 911.

Now, that's not to say that--again, this is infinitesimally small. That's not to say that each and every case that's come up has been, you know, an active case of a biochemical agent. There have been many hoaxes out there, and I want to assure the American public, we're following up on everything, including the hoaxes, because at this point in time, we need to create some calm.

We're doing what the president has told us to do, to try and bring back a sense of normalcy to day-to-day life in America. And what's more normal than getting your mail? Hundred thirty-seven million addresses...

ROBERTS: OK, (inaudible)...

POTTER: ... get mail six days a week.

ROBERTS: Thank you, thank you very much, Mr. Potter.

Joining us now from Philadelphia, the police commissioner, John Timoney. And in Washington, Chuck Vance, who's chief executive at an international security firm.

Starting with you, Mr. Timoney, you just heard Mr. Potter say ``Dial 911.''

TIMONEY: Correct.

ROBERTS: Are you getting an awful lot of 911 calls? And what on earth can you do about it?

TIMONEY: Yes, well, good morning, Cokie.

We've been getting since September 11 flooded, obviously, with bomb threats. But over the last 24 to 36 hours, the calls on anthrax--we've been flooded. And it's required us to make some adjustments. Obviously the initial respondent, the 911 officer, will go, and he'll make a quick assessment.

And then we have an intermediate step where a team, an assessment team made up of a police officer, fire officer, a health department official, and a bomb expert or explosive expert will go to the scene and make an assessment and say, you know, There's nothing to it.

But if it looks suspicious and they can take it out of there in safety, they'll do that.

ROBERTS: Now...

TIMONEY: But--or then just do a full-blown emergency removal.

ROBERTS: Now, this anthrax scare comes on top of the alert that the FBI put out late Thursday...

TIMONEY: Correct.

ROBERTS: ... saying that something could happen in the next several days.

TIMONEY: Right.

ROBERTS: Is that a useful thing for them to have done? How do you--how do you respond to that?

TIMONEY: Yes, well, somebody said, How higher can you go? We were already at a high sense of alert. But given the fact that there was some specificity regarding time, four to five days, I think it behooves all police departments to just take it the step further.

And what we've done, in addition to the extra police officers on 12-hour tours, we brought in extra supervisors because we don't want our officers to relax and become bored. Because most of this stuff is actually pretty boring. But they need to remain on the alert, and we need the supervisors out there reminding them, certainly for the foreseeable future, you know, to stay alert.

The big problem for us, though, is long term. If this takes up to a year, how do you maintain this high sense of alert for a year, year and a half?

ROBERTS: Well, and what about the resources? This comes...

TIMONEY: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... at a time when everybody's cutting their budgets...

TIMONEY: Correct.

ROBERTS: ... when--how do you pay for it?

TIMONEY: Well, that's the big question. And my sense is that there's going to be some responsibility on the part of the federal government, you know, to help fill the coffers of local government, because clearly we can--we would not afford in Philadelphia, or most big cities, to continue on the alert just out of our own tax base. It just--it would be impossible.

ROBERTS: Mr. Vance, turning to you here, are all of these threats credible, in your mind, or are we really looking--barking up the wrong tree? Is the threat much more likely to be a nuclear threat?

VANCE: Well, no, I think the threat, Cokie, is more likely to be what we've seen historically with terrorist groups, really in--we've seen in other countries that they really regress back to the--what they know best and what they can get ahold of, which is the car bomb or the truck bomb. It's a lot easier in this country to get ahold of ammonium nitrate, which is basically the ingredient to fertilizers, than it is to get ahold of a nuclear bomb, for gosh sakes, or to get ahold of anthrax.

So I think what we're probably going to see in the future here is going back to conventional bombing. And that, of course, depending on where they do it, can be just as terrorizing as any other instrument of war.

ROBERTS: Now, we had, as you saw in Brian Ross's piece earlier, this threat from the Al Qaeda organization yesterday saying Muslims should not get on airplanes or live in high-rises. Do you take that seriously? Is that a credible threat?

VANCE: No, frankly, I think that's a bit of misinformation that they're putting out there just to keep us terrorized. I mean, they really are trying to, you know, do everything they can to keep the paranoia going in this country, and I--you know, and frankly, I think the American public has to look at this more realistically.

We--you know, obviously, we have to heighten our concern, heighten our awareness, heighten our security profile, but you're far more likely to get killed out driving on the highways right now than you are to be killed by a terrorist.

ROBERTS: But that's always been true, that--but clearly, this is a different situation.

VANCE: Well, it is, Cokie...

ROBERTS: And...

VANCE: ... it is, but, you know, you talk of--you--for years and years, people were afraid to fly, and you kept telling them, Hey, you're more likely to be killed on a freeway than you are in the air. And finally people got to the point where they weren't afraid to fly.

Well, this is--this circumstance is pretty analogous, I think.

ROBERTS: Should they be now, should they be afraid to fly now?

VANCE: I don't think they should, frankly. I think the terrorists are probably not going to go after the same thing they did before. They're probably going to try to hit us somewhere else.

ROBERTS: Do you think that this alert that the FBI put the country on was a useful thing to do? Or was it just not evaluating all the intelligence that's coming in properly?

VANCE: Well, I think the intelligence sources and the law enforcement sources are erring on the side of being cautious. So I think that the FBI, who is--and the Justice Department, who certainly got a little bit of criticism for not anticipating the September 11 event, are probably just kind of covering themselves. And they do have credible information, I'm sure.

However, for people to go out and say that there is a 100 percent chance of them to retaliate on us, or that, you know, we got to be on the highest, highest state of alert I think is counterproductive, frankly, for our population.

ROBERTS: Thank you very much, Chuck Vance, John Timoney in Philadelphia, and John Potter here in Washington.

Still ahead, the roundtable. But first, when we come back, George Stephanopoulos is in Islamabad where he as an exclusive interview with the foreign minister, as Colin Powell is on his way to Pakistan.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALDSON: Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves for the Pakistan, India subcontinent region today. First stop, Pakistan, where the government has agreed to help the United States in the war against Afghanistan. But many Pakistanis, protesting in the street, have not. George Stephanopoulos is in the capital of Islamabad.

George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Sam. And I'm here with Pakistan's Foreign Abdul Sattar.

Mr. Sattar, thank you for being with us.

SATTAR: Glad to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Earlier this week, President Musharraf said he's received assurances that the bombing campaign will be short and targeted, but President Bush denied giving any such assurance. Has Pakistan received this or not?

SATTAR: I think that we should not really dwell too much on short and long. Duration will depend on achieving the targets that have been fixed in the Security Council resolution of 12 September 2001.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you see their protest now in Jacobabad just today in Pakistan. Are you concerned that this is going on too long? We're now in the eighth day.

SATTAR: I think the longer this operation lasts, the greater the damage, collateral damage. And the larger the number of Afghan refugees that enter Pakistan, the greater will be the worry and concern in Pakistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There were also reports this week in the American press that Pakistan has asked the United States to hold back on bombing frontline Taliban forces in order to prevent the Northern Alliance from going in and taking over Kabul. Is that true?

SATTAR: I think this is substantially true. Namely, that at this time for the minority ethnic group in the northeast to march down to the south, capture Kabul, will destabilize an already volatile situation. And the best thing is that we should talk about the future political plans and help the Afghan people in forming for themselves a broad-based government that can bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, President Bush has been working with the UN to create a Loya Jirgah, the Afghan process to create a government that'll be formed after the war. Do you support that process?

SATTAR: We support the U.N. process. It has at the beginning end at the formation of a representative broad-based and multi-ethnic government. And once it is formed, I think it will be good for the people of Afghanistan. And it could be good for all the neighbors around Afghanistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also meeting this week with representatives of King Zahir Shah. They're coming to Pakistan. It is acceptable for Pakistan for the king to head an interim government?

SATTAR: The answer is yes. King Zahir Shah is known for the benign rule that he gave to his country. In fact, his era, seems in retrospect, to be a golden era. And I'm sure a large number of Afghan people would welcome a role by the former king in leading his people and country to a peaceful future.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the king is allied now with the Northern Alliance. Is that a problem for Pakistan?

SATTAR: No, we have nothing against the Northern Alliance. Many of these people have a had a role in the struggle against Soviet occupation. And the question really is that there should be a balance, namely that the ethnic communities should be represented in the future government, and...

STEPHANOPOULOS: That means more Pashtuns.

SATTAR: Well, Pashtuns happen to be a majority of the population, and denial of representation to them will be prescription for instability and infighting.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Taliban defectors? Is there a place for them in the future government?

SATTAR: Well, Taliban--you know the word means students of religious schools. There must be millions of them in Afghanistan. But the question is that of the power structure.

And I think those people who are responsible for bringing this hardship to the Afghan people by mortgaging their policy to a handful of outlaws who are foreigners, they probably will not have a role in the future.

But there are many others, good people who have a record of service to Afghanistan in their struggle for recovery of independence and freedom, they could have it all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in order to make this work, do you think it's going to be necessary for there to be some sort of U.N. force to demilitarize Kabul? Some have suggested an all-Islamic force made up of Islamic forces that don't border Afghanistan, like Turkey and Morocco.

SATTAR: I think the emphasis in the first phase has to be on formation of a broad-based government. And if that government needs the presence of foreign forces under the umbrella of the United Nations, I think it should be the duty of one of us to help them.

Whether they are all Islamic forces or not is a different matter. I don't think we would insist on that--Pakistan would insist on that. The United Nations has to have an impartial role, and we will leave it to the secretary general of the United Nations to form a combination of forces that can best provide the umbrella for the future government in Afghanistan to achieve stability and peace in their country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, Secretary Powell also will be dealing with the issue of Kashmir, which some U.S. officials have called the most dangerous place on earth. What do you think the U.S. can do to help lesson the tension there?

SATTAR: The United States, along with other members of the Security Council of the United Nations, can help recommence a dialogue between Pakistan and India, so that we, with the rest of the world community, can attempt to arrive at the solution acceptable to the people of Afghanistan. I think that is the bottom line. A solution has to be accept...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kashmir?

SATTAR: ... has to be acceptable to the people of Kashmir, I'm sorry.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Sattar, that's all we have time for today. Thank you very much.

SATTAR: Happy to have been with you.

END

© 2001 The Washington Post Company