Rallying the world

Bush seeks coalition, mulls bailout of airlines

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, reaching out to build a global alliance, said Tuesday he hopes to ''rally the world'' in the battle against terrorism and predicted that all ''people who love freedom'' would join. French President Jacques Chirac said his nation stands firmly with the United States in the effort.

A week after the nation's worst terrorist attack, Bush said his goal was ''to find terrorists, to smoke them out of their holes, and to get them and to bring them to justice.''

Bush spoke as he began an evening dinner meeting with Chirac.

For his part, Chirac said, ''This tragedy does not have a parallel.''

''We stand in total solidarity,'' he said, speaking through an interpreter.

However, Chirac stopped short of using Bush's ''war'' terminology.

''I don't know whether we should use the word 'war,' but what I can say is now we are faced with a conflict of a completely new nature,'' Chirac said.

The meeting came as the Bush administration stepped up its efforts to reach out to leaders around the world to build a coalition against terrorism, even appealing for help to Cuba and Sudan, with which the United States has had tense relations. The administration also began preparing a multibillion-dollar financial aid package for battered U.S. airlines.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, meanwhile, announced that the FBI had detained 75 people for questioning. At least four material witnesses have been arrested in the largest criminal investigation in the nation's history.

Ashcroft also announced new rules to allow the Justice Department to detain people on immigration violations for 48 hours, double the current limit, and the creation of an anti-terrorism task force with representatives in major cities.

Chirac was the first world leader Bush has met with since last Tuesday's suicide hijacking attacks in New York and Washington that left more than 5,000 people dead and missing. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming to Washington Thursday.

''Make no mistake about it: This administration has got a firm goal and a determination to achieve the goal,'' Bush said. ''And that is to rally the world toward a campaign to find terrorists, to smoke them out of their holes and to get them, and to bring them to justice.''

France has sometimes had strained relations with the United States on military issues, including how to deal with Iraq.

But Chirac told Bush: ''We are completely determined to fight by your side this new type of evil, of absolute evil, which is terrorism. And I also wanted to say that France is prepared and available to discuss all means to fight and eradicate this evil.''

Earlier, Ashcroft raised the possibility that more than four planes may have been targeted for hijacking, although he said the FBI could not confirm it. ''Obviously, there is still a great deal of information to be collected in order to understand the full picture'' of the suicide hijackings that left more than 5,000 people dead and missing, Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft said associates of the terrorists may still be in the country.

Bush marked the grim one-week milestone by leading White House employees -- and the nation -- in a moment of silence. He also thanked leaders of charitable organizations at a Rose Garden ceremony and praised Americans for rushing to give aid and comfort.

''Out of our tears and sadness, we saw the best of America,'' Bush said. ''We saw a great country rise up to help.''

Trying to assemble a broad coalition to fight terrorism, Bush called U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He had a dinner meeting at the White House with French President Jacques Chirac.

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said Bush was employing a carrot-and-stick approach in his overtures to various nations, including some with which the United States does not have normal relations.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called Sudanese Foreign Minister Osman Ismail Mustafa and took note of Sudan's offer of cooperation in combatting terrorism, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said.

Boucher also said a U.S. official visited Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington and asked for whatever information Cuba may have about the terrorist attacks. Cuba has strongly condemned the Sept. 11 disaster.

The United States also has said it is willing to explore the possibility of Iran joining a broad international coalition to fight terrorism. Iran, Sudan and Cuba are on the State Department's list of nations that support or sponsor terrorism. The United States also has reached out to Syria, another nation on the list. The other three, which have not been consulted, are Libya, Iraq and North Korea.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Islamic clerics gathered in the Afghan capital of Kabul to discuss possible conditions for extraditing Osama bin Laden to a country other than the United States. They met as Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia called on all Muslims to wage holy war on America if it attacks.

American officials are skeptical that the Taliban will hand over bin Laden. And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested that bin Laden's surrender would probably not be enough to stop military action to root out terrorism.

''Our adversaries are not one or two terrorist leaders, even a single terrorist organization or network. It's a broad network of individuals and organizations that are determined to terrorize,'' Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.

He said these networks have activities in 50-60 countries. ''We'll have to deal with the networks. One of the ways to do that is to drain the swamp they live in, and that means dealing not only with the terrorists, but those who harbor terrorists,'' Rumsfeld said.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said the administration was preparing a package of relief for U.S. airlines, hit hard by financial problems and security concerns. He said he hoped it would be ready early next week.

''They've got to be made whole,'' Mineta said after a White House meeting with leaders of major airlines.

Mineta said the attacks on Washington and New York are costing the industry $250 million to $300 million a day.

''We are in very urgent need of a financial infusion very quickly,'' said Leo Mullin of Delta Air Lines, standing next to Mineta. He said estimates of airlines' needs ranged as high as $24 billion.

Members of both parties are eager to act on the airline legislation and could move even before the administration presents its package. Legislation providing at least $15 billion in grants and credits could come up in the House as early as Wednesday and in the Senate as early as Thursday.

''I think that it is important for us to continue to recognize how time sensitive this whole matter really is,'' Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said late Tuesday. ''It's a recognition of the extraordinary vulnerability that we see economically right now with all the airlines, some more than others.''

Presidential counselor Karen Hughes said in an interview that Bush had ordered his staff to begin grappling with the economic consequences of the attacks -- and that economic stimulus legislation and assistance for struggling airlines were the first orders of business.

''We are moving from a week where we dealt with rescue efforts to dealing with the broader responsibilities of the long-term effects on the economy,'' she said.

The White House declined to pinpoint the scope of Bush's war on terrorism. Fleischer initially seemed to suggest that terrorist groups in Ireland, Colombia, the Philippines and Russia could fall under Bush's umbrella, but he tried later to clarify his answer.

''It's hard to tell where the bounds of one group begins and one group ends. And in that it goes beyond the United States, all nations have a reason to protect themselves. And as this coalition is formed, nations will have those reasons to protect themselves as part of this,'' he said.

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