Major Developments: Sunday, September 23


• The Taliban says it could not deliver its request that Usama bin Laden leave its country because he has gone "missing." U.S. officials are skeptical of that claim, and the head of the opposition Northern Alliance says the terrorist leader is still in Afghanistan.

• The U.S. lifts sanctions against Pakistan and India related to their nuclear-weapons programs. The cooperation of the two countries will be key in any assault against Afghanistan.  

• The Northern Alliance claims that it has secured critical territory in its war against the Taliban. Separately, the Taliban's information ministry says its forces had shot down a helicopter belonging to the Northern Alliance, and not a pilotless U.S. spy plane.

• Hospitals in southwestern Pakistan are preparing to handle casualties if the United States launches military strikes on Afghanistan. 

• Pope John Paul II says the disputes between nations should be solved by dialogue, not force of arms, during a visit to Kazakstan.

• Cuban President Fidel Castro calls the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks "a huge injustice and great crime," but says that while Cuba opposes terrorism, it is against a U.S.-led war on the perpetrators. 

• Saudi Arabia is resisting the United States' request to use a new command center on a Saudi military base in any air war against terrorists, forcing Pentagon planners to consider alternatives that could delay a campaign for weeks.

• Britain's foreign secretary is planning to visit Iran, amid hints the Islamic republic may be willing to join a U.S.-led fight against terrorism. Iran's president has told Britain he's in full solidarity with the U.S. following the attacks.

• China says it will give the United States information it has gathered on terrorist groups as a show of support for American efforts to eliminate them.

• The United Arab Emirates is cutting diplomatic relations with Afghanistan's Taliban government, reports the official Emirates news agency. Now the Taliban is recognized as the Afghan government by only two nations — Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — and Saudi Arabia is said to be reconsidering its diplomatic stance as well.

• The prime minister of Turkey’s office says he's granting a U.S. request to use airports and airspace for military strikes. Turkey says it's also stepping up help to opposition groups fighting in Afghanistan, including training.

• Taliban troops take up positions in the jagged mountain peaks overlooking Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

The Investigation:

•  Box cutters similar to the ones used in the Sept. 11 hijackings have been discovered on some planes grounded that day. Sources say the potential weapons were found two planes, but the routes they were flying have not been reported. 

•  British authorities say three people in custody have links to one of the suspected suicide bombers in the Pentagon attack.

• Belgian police have arrested two men and seized a large quantity of chemicals in an action linked to the recent arrest of Islamic militants, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office says. 

• Federal investigators want to question a man who tried to fly to Chicago the day of the terrorist attacks. Court papers say the man, now detained in Canada, carried three passports and two airline uniforms.

• There's new evidence of a struggle in the final moments before a hijacked jetliner crashed in Pennsylvania. The New York Times quotes law-enforcement officials who say the voice recorder picked up scuffling sounds, along with shouts in Arabic and English.

• A federal judge has ordered three men who were arrested this week in Detroit to remain jailed. A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 28. The three are charged with possessing false identity documents, as well as with conspiracy.

• Authorities and a lawyer have confirmed a Saudi man was stopped a few miles from Dulles Airport outside Washington on Sept. 11. They say he was later arrested for allegedly making a false statement that he was a U.S. citizen.

• The Federal Trade Commission and state attorney in New York are investigating several cases of people trying to steal the identifications of those listed as missing in the World Trade Center.

The Victims:

• New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told reporters that the number of missing at the World Trade Center has been raised from 6,333 to 6,453, confirmed dead climbs to 263. Death toll at Pentagon stands at 189. Pennsylvania crash killed 44.

• Giuliani isn't saying when the rescue effort at the World Trade Center will become a recovery operation. Workers will keep lifting heavy debris out of the way and carefully look underneath, he says, but the chances of finding anyone alive get smaller and smaller. So far, 90,937 tons of debris have been removed.


• American Airlines says it's reducing fares for those who lost loved ones during the terrorist attacks in New York.

• More than 100,000 layoffs reported in airline industry in past week. 

• The government decides to allow companies to buy back shares of their own stock for a second week, to help buttress a market unnerved by fears about national security and the economy.

• Many economists believe the economy is certain to fall into recession. Surveys by two closely watched forecasting groups find economists feel massive layoffs and declining business caused by the terrorist attacks guarantee it.

• Bush signs a $15 billion relief package for the airline industry. The House had approved it in a 356-54 vote hours after the Senate approved the same bill 96-1.

• Washington's hoteliers say they are in a full-blown financial crisis as the closing of Reagan National Airport and the sharp reduction in business travel are leaving swaths of empty rooms and idled staffs.

• Insurance-industry analysts react with skepticism to a White House plan that would offer "terror insurance" to a wide range of businesses, saying there is no indication that such assistance is yet warranted.

The Home Front:

• Thousands of representatives of New York's broad spectrum of faiths took the field of Yankee Stadium for a flag-draped gathering of prayer for the victims of terrorism.

• President Bush is at Camp David, where he raises the flag to full staff for the first time since the attacks. He is expected to convene a teleconference of his national security team.

• Bush in his radio address tries to reassure Americans that despite Wall Street's record decline and massive airline layoffs, a fundamentally strong American economy will recover from the shock of a major terror attack.

• Pentagon commits more aircraft to the Persian Gulf.

• In first round of government spending to counter terrorism, Bush decides to use $5.1 billion on military, add federal marshals to airline flights and give rewards for information about terrorists.

• The Empire State Building again dominates the New York skyline after the World Trade Center's destruction and some tenants are considering leaving it for less-conspicuous quarters.

• Fans will find tougher security when they attend NFL games Sunday. The league recommends against bringing backpacks, large bags and even large purses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report