"I had the occasion to reaffirm and reiterate to President Bush solidarity of the Algerian people, with the American people in these difficult times," President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said. "Maybe Algeria, better than anyone else, can understand the suffering and the pain of the families of the victims of the attack on Sept. 11, and Algeria is determined to fulfill fully its commitment and its responsibility in fighting against terrorists within the international fight against it, because Algeria is aware of the necessity and the significance, because it has been fighting in the past, alone."
The Algerian leader was one of six world leaders visiting Washington this week for a briefing on the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. Since Oct. 7, the United States has bombed targets inside Afghanistan in retaliation against that country's Taliban regime's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, the man Washington says masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Algeria, a Muslim nation, has been embroiled in a civil war pitting its government forces against Islamic militant groups for the past decade. In the early 1990s, an election that was widely expected to be won by Islamic parties was cancelled by the military. Unrest followed the cancellation, and in 1999, Bouteflika, a former foreign minister, was democratically elected to lead the nation.
"I had the occasion of expressing to President Bush of all my appreciation and gratitude for his statement and for the action that he did, since it was the correct assessment of Islam as a religion for peace and tolerance," Bouteflika said. "We share the same conviction that the attacks of Sept. 11 are not done -- are not the consequence of a conflict of civilizations, but they are, on the contrary, a criminal endeavor, and we are bound and all of us are obliged to denounce and destroy."
On Tuesday, Bush was to address by satellite leaders of the Central European states in Warsaw, Poland, and brief them on the war against terrorism. He was also preparing for his first address before the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
As part of the U.S. anti-terrorism effort, Bush was to welcome this week members of the anti-terrorist coalition to the White House. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern were expected.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described the U.N. speech and the visits as a "confluence of events and it is no surprise that more meetings are coming prior to the U.N. address on Saturday."
Bilateral meetings with world leaders were to continue during Bush's trip to New York where he was to meet with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has been criticized at home for his support of the U.S. campaign.
Next week, Bush was to travel to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for the first time since the attacks. There, he was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two leaders were expected to undertake discussions on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the U.S. desire to scuttle the pact in favor of a new framework that would allow testing of a missile defense shield. Bush says such a system would protect America from accidental launches or launches by nations it regards as rogue states.