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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 05:07 GMT
Terror prompts huge US military revamp
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (left) with Central Command Commander General Tommy Franks
Rumsfeld: Best form of defence is attack
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has called for America to spend billions of dollars on new weapons to protect itself against the threat of terrorism.

Mr Rumsfeld said the United States faced attacks far more deadly than those on 11 September, and should prepare for "the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen and the unexpected".

These attacks could grow vastly more deadly than those we suffered on 11 September

Donald Rumsfeld
He said hundreds of thousands of Americans could be killed if terrorists managed to get hold of unconventional weapons and deliver them with ballistic missiles.

Mr Rumsfeld's comments, in a speech to the Pentagon's National Defence University, came ahead of the formal unveiling on Monday of President George W Bush's request for a massive boost in US defence spending.

The proposed increase would be the biggest requested since former President Ronald Reagan went cap in hand to Congress during the Cold War, 20 years ago.

Dire warning

"In the years ahead, it is likely that we will be surprised again by new adversaries who may also strike in unexpected ways," Mr Rumsfeld said.

George W Bush
President Bush has warned "rogue" states
"And as they gain access to weapons of increasing power - and let there be no doubt they are - these attacks could grow vastly more deadly than those we suffered 11 September 11."

Mr Rumsfeld said the situation called for pre-emptive strikes. "The best, and in some cases the only, defence is a good offence."

The US had - ill-advisedly - postponed spending on spy planes and chemical and biological defence, Mr Rumsfeld said.

"That needs to change."

Spending boost

President Bush is requesting $379bn in defence spending in the fiscal year 2003, up $48bn from this year.

Following his State of the Union address threat to Iran, Iraq and North Korea - a trio he called an "axis of evil" - his security adviser Condoleezza Rice provided details of US plans on Thursday.

She said the US would:

  • Work towards an international ban on the proliferation of dangerous weapons
  • Use its new friendship with Russia to press for changes in rogue states
  • Push ahead with its plans for missile defence

More than four months after the devastating attacks on New York and Washington, the US remains on high alert.

FBI agents wearing bio-hazard suits
The anthrax scare alerted officials to the threat of unconventional weaponry
FBI Director Robert S Mueller says this is because he believe there are "sleeper cells" of terrorists waiting for the command to attack.

Mr Mueller said interviews with captured al-Qaeda fighters and documentary evidence found in Afghanistan and elsewhere pointed to more potential attacks.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said two weeks ago intelligence services issued a warning of a possible attack on a nuclear plant or other nuclear facility.

Mr Mueller he urged the highest state of alert for the Super Bowl football game this weekend and the February's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"The German leader said his country was committed"
See also:

24 Jan 02 | Americas
Big boost for US military spending
24 Jan 02 | Americas
US prepares for budget battle
31 Jan 02 | Middle East
Iran lashes out at Bush
31 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea rejects 'hostile' Bush remarks
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