The options were once abundant. Despots and terrorists found shelter in a number of countries from Lebanon to the Sudan. But in the 21st century there is almost no place left on earth that would take in the likes of Usama bin Laden.

As U.S. troops scout a crumbling Afghanistan for the Al Qaeda leader wanted for the Sept. 11 attacks, experts say the few places he may try to flee to include Iraq, Somalia and the disputed land of Kashmir, fought over by India and Pakistan.

Perhaps bin Laden's best option is to try to cross the Afghan-Pakistan border. Long and porous, the frontier is jammed with refugees, and Pakistan is home to militant groups sympathetic to bin Laden and his Taliban allies.

But the terrain, especially in the north, is often treacherous and at this time of year, the temperature can drop below freezing. Once over the border, bin Laden would still have to traverse Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against him.

With Afghanistan to its west and Kashmir to the east, Pakistan moved tanks and additional soldiers along the border Thursday to prevent any infiltration.

If bin Laden does manage to make it across the rugged frontier and past the military, "just slipping into Kashmir would be quite possible," said Jayanto Choudhury, a senior Indian diplomat posted in Washington. "There are hundreds of trails that bin Laden could take and at least two militant Kashmiri groups that he may be able to hook up with."

The two groups, Jaish-I-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, have been fighting India for more than a decade and were placed on a list of suspected terrorist organizations whose assets have been blocked by the Bush administration since Sept. 11.

Although the groups have a pro-Taliban bent, Choudhury said the threat of U.S. reprisals as well as a $25 million reward for bin Laden "could tip the scales against him in Kashmir. That's big money in the United States but in those parts of the world it would take care of you for many lifetimes over."

Any militant, local guide or shepherd who spotted the tall Saudi in Kashmir or any other country bordering Afghanistan could make a bid for the bounty.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that the United States would catch up with bin Laden even if he left Afghanistan.

"I think we will find him, either there or in another country, Rumsfeld said.

Traveling further afield to a potential friend like Iraq would prove more challenging. Although Rumsfeld told The New York Times that bin Laden may have access to a helicopter, Iraq is hundreds of miles away and separated from Afghanistan by Iran -- an enemy of the Taliban regime.

"Taking in bin Laden would mean an immediate attack on Iraq," said Judith Kipper with the Council on Foreign Relations. "There might have been some business between them but they have clearly different outlooks."

Czech officials have said suicide hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent earlier this year and some have speculated Iraq could have had a hand in the anthrax scare.

But Saddam Hussein, who faced 40 days of U.S. bombardments in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, has repeatedly rejected claims that the country was connected to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Crippled by more than a decade of U.N. sanctions and still living with periodic U.S.-British air strikes, Iraq would have little to gain by letting in bin Laden.

The east African nation of Somalia may not be able to keep bin Laden out. Wracked by years of civil war, the country is barely being governed. Bin Laden sent operatives there to confront the U.S. military in 1993 -- when 18 servicemen were killed while on a peacekeeping mission -- and is said to still have connections in the lawless capital. The Bush administration froze the assets last week of two Somali financial services networks accused of funneling cash for Al Qaeda.

Still, Somalia is trying to rebuild and has called for an international investigation into allegations that it harbors terrorists.

"There are some pretty big international penalties out there on states that would harbor someone who was credibly linked to the attacks on Sept. 11," said Richard Dicker, an international law expert with the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted after the attacks are extensive and detailed regarding what states must do to prevent terrorism.

Those kinds of legally binding sanctions weren't around when Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier fled Haiti for France, or when Lebanon served as a base for radical Palestinians in the 70s and 80s.

Sudan, which provided bin Laden refuge during the 90s, and Libya, have been working to repair their reputations.

Even Saudi Arabia, which took in Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, has refused to take in bin Laden, its native son -- even as a prisoner.

Kipper does not believe that any state will offer a haven for the most hunted man in the world.

"He's cornered. The pressures that are coming to bear upon him are enormous and that's a result of the anti-terrorism campaign."