Bush warns helping terrorists in any way won't be tolerated

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Monday the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is ''just the beginning'' of the fight against terrorism, and he warned Iraq and North Korea there would be consequences for producing weapons of mass destruction.

The president, asked about Iraq and about potential military targets beyond the Afghanistan war, expanded on the list of ways a country can get crosswise with the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism.

''If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist,'' he said. ''If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. I mean, I can't make it any more clear to other nations around the world.''

''If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable,'' the president said. That remark spelled out a new condition for countries that want to avoid being labeled pro-terrorist.

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said Bush was relating long-held views -- not suggesting new policy or signaling post-Afghanistan plans.

Senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not dispute Fleischer but said Bush's remarks reflected a growing consensus at the White House that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could be the greatest hurdle in America's war on terrorism unless he moves on the weapons issue.

Aides fearing Bush's comments would upset U.S. allies reluctant to back action against Iraq said late Monday that Saddam is not necessarily the next target after Afghanistan. Other countries that harbor terrorists, such as Somalia, or need help to curb terrorism in their countries, such as Yemen, are just as likely to receive Bush's attention once the Afghanistan campaign is complete, they said.

The president was asked whether he had a message for Saddam as the administration looks toward the next phase of the U.S. campaign.

''My message is ... that if you harbor a terrorist, you're a terrorist,'' Bush said. ''If you develop weapons of mass destruction that you want to terrorize the world, you'll be held accountable.''

Some advisers are pushing Bush to make Iraq his next target. Many of those aides worked for Bush's father who led the country through the Persian Gulf War that ended with Saddam's promise to stop producing weapons of mass destruction and to open his nation to inspectors.

In a Rose Garden news conference, Bush also:

Urged the Senate to pass an economic revival bill by Christmas, his initial end-of-November deadline nearly passed.

Criticized researchers in Massachusetts for cloning a six-cell human embryo in hopes of developing medical advances. ''We should not as a society grow life to destroy it,'' he said.

Left it to the Pentagon to announce the use of U.S. Marines to seize an airstrip in southern Afghanistan but said stepped-up military action may well lead to U.S. casualties.

''America must be prepared for loss of life,'' he said.

On Iraq, Bush urged Saddam to allow weapons inspectors into the country ''to prove to the world he's not developing weapons of mass destruction.''

Asked what will happen if Saddam refuses, Bush replied, ''He'll find out.''

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed al-Douri, said the Iraqi government will not allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return as long as the Security Council maintains sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

''Our position is very clear on that question -- that we will not permit any ... weapons inspectors,'' he said. ''We have nothing to inspect.''

Bush said the leaders of North Korea must allow inspectors in if they want good relations with the United States.

''And they ought to stop proliferating,'' Bush said, adding that ''part of the war on terror is to deny terrorists weapons.''

Since the presidential campaign, Bush has urged Iraq and North Korea to allow weapons inspectors into their nations. He has warned Iraq of undisclosed consequences if they don't comply. The administration has long suspected both countries of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

He brushed aside suggestions that his new language meant a shift in tone against either country.

''I've always had that definition as far as I'm concerned,'' Bush said.

His admonition Monday was the first in the context of questions about the next phase of the anti-terrorism war. Military successes against the Taliban have led some administration officials to consider options beyond Afghanistan.

U.S. allies have expressed reservations about targeting Iraq.

''I think what the president was referring to is the obvious and well-known fact that Iraq and North Korea are already listed on the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism,'' Fleischer said.

Bush did not mention the State Department list, which includes Iran, Sudan, Cuba, Libya and Syria.

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