WASHINGTON -- President Bush pledged anew Friday that Osama bin Laden will be taken "dead or alive," no matter how long it takes, amid indications that the suspected terrorist may be bottled up in a rugged Afghan canyon.
The president, in an Oval Office meeting with Thailand's prime minister, would not predict the timing of bin Laden's capture but said he doesn't care how the suspect is brought to justice.
"I don't care, dead or alive -- either way," Bush said. "It doesn't matter to me."
"I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow or a month from now or a year from now. I don't really know. But we're going to get him," the president said. "The American people must understand that I have no timetable in mind. There's no -- I don't have a calendar that says, 'Gosh, if he's not gotten by this certain moment, then I'll be disappointed."'
A senior defense officials said U.S.-backed Afghan fighters, heavy airstrikes and Pakistani troops may have cornered bin Laden with al-Qaida forces in the Tora Bora area.
If bin Laden is with his al-Qaida forces -- and Pentagon officials acknowledge he could be elsewhere -- he has few good options.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, making his third trip to countries near Afghanistan, was leaving midday Friday for Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia en route to a NATO meeting in Brussels.
"He is going to meet with senior officials in those countries to discuss the war on terrorism," said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke. "It's important to discuss with the leaders in the region and continue to reaffirm what it is we are trying to accomplish."
Afghan tribal fighters claimed to have located a cave Friday that a top Afghan commander said was recently occupied by Osama bin Laden.
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