President Bush repeated the demand that the ruling government of Afghanistan surrender of the terrorists who plotted the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States.
“Full warning has been given and time is running out,” he said.
The president made a clear distinction between the Taliban regime and the Afghan people, pledging U.S. support to fend off starvation and possibly to help reconstruct Afghanistan after the present crisis ends.
“Our enemy is the terrorists themselves and the regimes that shelter and sustain them,” Mr. Bush said. “We’re offering help and friendship to the Afghan people. It is their Taliban rulers, and the terrorists they harbor, who have much to fear.”
The United States has pledged $320 million in aid to help those who have fled Afghanistan and are now refugees as well as those inside the country.
After the address, White House officials dismissed an offer from the Taliban to release eight detained aid workers if the United States abandons its threats to use force.
“The president has made clear from the beginning that the Taliban needs to release the aid workers and that it is time for action, not negotiation,” said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
The eight aid workers– four Germans, two Americans and two Australians– were arrested in August on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, which they deny.
Earlier, the Taliban ordered the release of a British reporter detained over a week ago for illegally entering the country.
Planes fly over Kabul
In Afghanistan, Taliban gunners fired at two aircraft flying high over the capital, Kabul. Residents came out of stores and houses to watch as two silver, unidentified planes flew overhead.
The Pentagon did not respond when asked whether the planes were U.S. forces.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned to Washington Saturday from military consultations with five of the region’s friendly nations in the region around Afghanistan. He briefed Mr. Bush at Camp David in western Maryland, where he has been meeting with National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and the head of the CIA, George Tenet.
During his trip, Rumsfeld won Uzbekistan’s permission to use an airbase for troops and aircraft, but not for military strikes, and Georgia promised its bases for air strikes if the Taliban does not give in.
The United States also deployed its newest spy satellite, believed to be able to gather pictures, electronic data and even telephone conversations. It could even spot a campfire from hundreds of miles in space.