WASHINGTON — As moves by Afghanistan's neighbors thrust it toward total diplomatic isolation, President Bush appeared to gain additional support from Russia on Saturday in building ties with anti-Taliban resistance forces.
The United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, and a top Bush administration official said Saudi Arabia is soon expected to follow suit. That would limit the Taliban's official ties to a single nation, Pakistan, whose foreign ministry announced Saturday that it has withdrawn its last diplomats.
The physical noose also tightened on the Taliban as Turkey announced it will allow the United States to use its airspace and military bases for the new war on terrorism.
The moves by influential countries in the Islamic world provide critical support for a campaign that is not yet universally welcomed by Muslim or Arab communities, especially now that the U.S. has made clear that Afghanistan's Muslim government will be a target too.
Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin talked by phone for nearly an hour Saturday, a conversation initiated by Putin while he huddled for six hours with top security advisors at his holiday home in southern Russia.
During the conversation, their third in the 11 days since the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the two discussed U.S. plans and Moscow's role, according to a White House spokesperson. Although a senior Russian military official has ruled out any participation in U.S. military strikes, the United States is nonetheless "very pleased" with the direction of those talks, the official added.
Meanwhile, in another move to squeeze Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, Bush is expected to sign an executive order today or Monday that will name specific terrorists and terrorist groups around the world so their assets can be frozen, administration sources said Saturday.
An initial draft of the executive order remains focused on Al Qaeda and "related groups," sources said, and does not outline a wider or comprehensive list of terrorist groups that the United States may hope to eventually target.
'One Voice on This Issue'
In response to the support from the Islamic world, the Bush administration heralded the decision Saturday by the Emirates, an oil-rich Gulf sheikdom that also has the second-most important economic ties to Afghanistan, as evidence that the "international community of nations speaks with one voice on this issue."
"We hope today's move by the UAE will lead the Taliban to recognize that it must immediately remand Osama bin Laden to the appropriate authorities so that he may be arrested and brought to justice," said a statement from the State Department.
The United Arab Emirates also is expected to clamp down on the large volume of legal and smuggled trade that goes to or through Afghanistan, and on Emirate business ventures there, U.S. officials said. Companies in the UAE have contracted for everything from cell phone contracts to oil and gas exploration. Many Afghan traders, money changers and banks use Emirate financial institutions.
"The UAE has made lots of commitments, but unlike diplomatic acts, these things don't happen overnight, so they have yet to become fact," said an administration official who asked to remain anonymous.
As the diplomatic efforts went forward, the Pentagon activated another 5,172 Air Force reservists. That brings to 10,303 the number ordered to active duty under the national emergency declared by Bush, authorizing the call-up of 50,000 reservists.
Most of the reservists are expected to help bolster "homeland defense."
Those called up Saturday are from Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units in 11 states, and most will provide air refueling and joint communications services, the government said.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials denied a published report that Saudi Arabia had resisted U.S. overtures to use a new command center on Prince Sultan Air Base, which might force U.S. planners to move the vital center.
The United States is "fully satisfied" with the kingdom's compliance with requests for help, the State Department said Saturday. "The kingdom has provided whatever we have asked for," said the administration official.
The next step, discussed Thursday during the Washington visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal, is cutting off diplomatic ties with the Taliban.
"We expect to see action soon," the official added.
Bush Waives U.S. Sanctions
Also Saturday, Bush waived U.S. sanctions against Pakistan and India, declaring they were "not in the national security interests of the United States."
The sanctions were imposed by the Clinton administration in 1998 when the two countries conducted nuclear tests. The waiver was seen as a reward for Pakistan's pledge to help the United States in its efforts against the Taliban.