Rice to give interview to al Jazerra

By KATHY A. GAMBRELL, White House reporter  |  Oct. 15, 2001 at 3:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Monday that she expected to tape an interview with the Qatari Al Jazeera television network in an effort by the Bush administration to get its message out to Arab nations that the military action in Afghanistan is a war against terrorism, not civilizations.

"We do think it's important that we get our message out to Arab publics. And we know that this is a network that is very popular with Arab publics," Rice said. "I hope to be able to talk to the message the president has been delivering, that this is a war on terrorism, a war on evil. This is not a war of civilizations."

Rice's comments came during a briefing on President George W. Bush's trip to Shanghai, China, for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum this weekend. Last week, she telephoned U.S. cable, network and newspaper executives to caution them against airing or printing prerecorded statements by Saudi terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden and members of his al Qaida organization.

Bin Laden has been identified as the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York that left more than 6,000 people injured or dead.

"The president has enormous respect, and all of us do, for Islam, for a religion that preaches that peace; that would never countenance the violent deaths of innocent people. And I hope to get that word across. So that's why we're doing it," Rice said of her Al Jazeera interview, adding that Secretary of State Colin Powell had also appeared on the network last week.

She said a number of other officials would likely also tape segments. A request for President Bush to appear on the network was being reviewed.

Al Jazeera, which is partly owned by the Qatari government, obtained and broadcast the bin Laden tapes; the tapes were then shown on CNN on Oct. 8 as military strikes against targets in Afghanistan began in retaliation for the Taliban regime's refusal to surrender bin Laden.

Rice and others on the national security team feared the tapes played in their entirety might signal al Qaida members or supporters to kill Americans.

"The analysts continue to look at these messages, and they are continuing to see what we can learn from them," she said. "The point to the networks -- and let me just say that I think the networks have been very responsible in the way that they have dealt with this ... my message to them was that it's not to me to judge news value of something like this, but it is to say that there's a national security concern about an unedited, 15- or 20-minute spew of anti-American hatred that ends in a call to go out and kill Americans. And I think that that was fully understood."

Rice said analysts who were reviewing bin Laden's taped message had not reached any conclusions about whether any signaling or other covert messaging had indeed taken place.

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