Somalia could be the next battleground in the war on terror, but it might not be a military war.
Or perhaps Iraq, though not without "deliberation and consideration."
A senior German official Wednesday said the United States has decided to take its fight against Osama bin Laden's terror network to the East African nation. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no longer a question of whether to go after al-Qaida terrorists there, but only when and how.
However, on Thursday, no-longer-anonymous German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping backtracked from previous comments, saying he was not aware that the United States or any of its allies were planning to widen the "war on terrorism" to Somalia.
Scharping made the comments at an off-the-record briefing in Brussels which were attributed to "a senior German official" in the media. But the Financial Times Deutschland daily revealed the source on Thursday after the German government distanced itself from the remarks and Washington said he was wrong.
"The German was wrong. He didn't mean to be, and he's probably sorry, but he was flat wrong," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels Wednesday, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to confirm the information, saying only "Countries that harbor terrorists worry us. And Somalia is one potential country there are others as well a potential country where you might have diplomatic, law enforcement action or potentially military action. All the instruments of national power, not just one."
British officials, meanwhile, are expressing concerns about extending the U.S.-led war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan, such as to Iraq. CBS News Correspondent Sam Litzinger reports British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he'll stand with the U.S. to rid the world of terrorism, but he also says Britain doesn't want to begin military action against other countries without some long, hard thought.
"Phase II of this operation will involve other actions against international terrorism, but in respect to each, there will be process and deliberation and consideration before we act," he said.
Blair adds there's not much doubt Iraq and the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein.
Somalia - a poor, war-torn, desert land of 7.5 million people, most of them Muslim, and without a central government - could become an early target in the multi-pronged U.S.-led war on terrorism, U.S. officials said. It was the scene of a U.S. military debacle in 1993 and remains a hotbed of lawlessness.
At Tuesday's meeting of NATO defense ministers, Rumsfeld also mentioned Yemen and Sudan as countries suspected of supporting terrorism.
And in Yemen that same day, Yemeni forces trained and equipped with U.S. funds engaged armed tribesmen in a bid to capture suspected al-Qaida members, government officials and tribal souces said.
Other countries mentioned as having terrorism problems have included the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tajikstan and Uzbekistan.
Several African countries called on the United States to avoid military action in Somalia and cooperate with the transitional government, which has expressed readiness to "get rid of any terrorist camps if it was proved they existed on Somali lands."
Their joint statement, issued in Cairo by the Sudanese Embassy, was from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a grouping of east African nations, and the 15-nation Group of Sahel and Sahara States.
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