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Cornered, bin Laden may strike U.S. again

The death of Osama bin Laden could trigger new terrorist attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday.

"The threat level is still pretty significant out there, especially if we come to the end of the road here for bin Laden in Afghanistan and we're successful in wrapping him up," Cheney said on CBS's 60 Minutes II.

"That, in and of itself, could be a signal that would trigger some kind of a revenge attack, if you will, by people loyal to bin Laden," he said. "So it doesn't end, necessarily, with him."

The Bush administration in recent days has sought to deflect attention from bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and focus Americans and world audiences on the broader target of those who harbor terrorists.

Cheney warned that even bin Laden's death would not safeguard the United States against attacks, because "even if we sort of chop off the head, if you will, we may still find that the al-Qaida organization is there."

But, Cheney said, "In the end, we can't wrap it up unless we do get him."

Bin Laden has vowed to wage his war inside the United States.

In a video reportedly circulated in late October to al-Qaida members, he said, "The battle has been moved inside America, and we shall continue until we win this battle, or die in the cause and meet our maker." The video is mentioned in documents on bin Laden released Wednesday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office.

Also in the videotape, bin Laden declares that his al-Qaida network "instigated" the Sept. 11 attacks, Blair said Wednesday, and says, "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, let history be a witness that we are terrorists."

On the tape, a British government document says, an interviewer asks bin Laden about the attacks on New York and Washington, and the Saudi replies: "It is what we instigated, for a while, in self-defense. And it was revenge for our people killed in Palestine and Iraq.

"Bush and Blair . . . don't understand any language but the language of force," bin Laden goes on, according to Blair. "Every time they kill us, we will kill them, so the balance of terror can be achieved."

The British government did not release the video or a full transcript, saying it does not have a copy of the video but has information about it from intelligence sources.

Wednesday, Cheney offered a glimpse into his own under-the-radar movements in recent weeks, when he has often been spirited to an undisclosed secure location.

The vice president said a small group of people are being "preserved" to assume control of the government if necessary.

"We do it in a way so that we've preserved a core element that could, in fact, take over and operate the federal government should something happen to the president and his key advisers," he said.

_ Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

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