Bush addresses Warsaw summit

By KATHY A. GAMBRELL, White House reporter  |  Nov. 6, 2001 at 9:55 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- The world since the Sept. 11 attacks has seen the true nature of terrorists who kill innocent people and then rejoice in it, President Bush on Tuesday told a summit of eastern European heads of states gathered in Warsaw to consider strategies for sharing intelligence and halting money laundering.

"We have seen the true nature of these terrorists in the nature of their attacks -- they kill thousands of innocent people and then rejoice about it," Bush told the group via satellite broadcast from the White House. "They kill fellow Muslims, many of whom died in the World Trade Center that terrible morning -- and then they gloat. They condone murder and claim to be doing so in the name of a peaceful religion."

Bush used the speech to explain and maintain support for U.S. military actions in Afghanistan, as well as to keep foreign governments in the fold of the coalition he spearheaded to fight terrorism following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"You are our partners against the fight against terrorism and we share an important moment in history," Bush told the leaders attending the Conference on International Terrorism. "For more than 50 years the peoples of your region suffered under oppressive ideologies that tried to trample human dignity. Today our freedom is threatened once again."

The European Union, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were expected to attend the summit as observers, as well as Belarus and Turkey.

Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldavia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia were expected to adopt a plan to combat terrorism during the summit.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO two years ago, and about six other former Soviet bloc states expect an invitation for membership in the alliance in 2002.

Speaking from the Treaty Room in the White House, Bush's address to the leaders came nearly two months after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon building outside Washington that killed up to 5,000 people.

In answer to the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States launched air assaults on Afghanistan's Taliban regime that federal authorities say has been harboring suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his Muslim extremist group al Qaida. Bin Laden has been identified as the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Like the fascists and totalitarians before them, these terrorists -- al Qaida, the Taliban regime that supports them and other terror groups across our world -- try to impose their radical views through threat and violence," Bush warned.

His speech was part of an aggressive U.S. public relations campaign aimed at keeping support alive for the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The administration has been so concerned about its perception among Arab nations it established an information office in London and one soon to open in Pakistan to hasten response to Taliban statements about civilian casualties.

Speculation has grown both in the United States and abroad that the airstrikes and limited ground campaign were not reaching the levels of success expected by the White House or defense officials. Reports have returned from the region that U.S. military forces have missed targets, mistakenly bombed civilian installations and been forced to back away from attacking Taliban positions set up in residential areas.

The Bush administration also has been criticized for not ruling out a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. However, Bush assured the Eastern European leaders that the United States was making progress in destroying the al Qaida network and emphasized America's actions did not place the people of Afghanistan at risk.

"We're making good progress in a just cause. Our efforts are directed at terrorists and military targets because, unlike our enemies, we value human life," Bush said. "We do not target innocent people, and we grieve for the difficult times the Taliban have brought to the people of their own country."

He went on to explain the series of anthrax-tainted letters that were sent through the postal system killing four people in what he called the second wave of terrorist attacks on the United States.

"The people of my nation are now fighting this war at home. We face a second wave of terrorist attacks in the form of deadly anthrax that has been sent through the U.S. mail," he said. "Our people are responding to this new threat with alertness and calm. Our government is responding to treat the sick, provide antibiotics to those who have been exposed and track down the guilty, whether abroad or at home."

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who opened the conference at his presidential palace, told participants that although nations welcomed the beginning of the century with hope, after the Sept. 11 attacks, the world found itself in a new reality.

"The times which are coming will certainly be more difficult and more demanding for politicians, and heads of state. Many issues have to be thought over again, many expectations have to be put aside for other times," Kwasniewski said.

Kwasniewski went on to say, "We must not also forget that terrorists' activities are supported by the public, mainly in those countries and communities where people are poor and deprived of hope."

Later in the day, Bush was expected to meet with French President Jacques Chirac. On Wednesday Prime Minister Tony Blair was to return to Washington for the first time since Sept. 20, when he sat with first lady Laura Bush as the president addressed a joint session of Congress detailing his war on terrorism.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern were also to visit Washington this week.

Bush's speech to the Warsaw conference is considered a precursor to his trip to New York City Saturday where he is to address the U.N. General Assembly. There he will have to convince a broader world audience that the U.S. effort to obliterate terrorism is in the best interests of the global community. He is expected to meet with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has come under increasing pressure by Muslims in his country -- including moderate Taliban supporters within his inner circle -- to withdraw his country's support for bombing in Afghanistan.

"Later this week at the United Nations, I will set out my vision of our common responsibilities in the war on terror. I will put every nation on notice that these duties involve more than sympathy or words. No nation can be neutral in this conflict, because no civilized nation can be secure in a world threatened by terror," Bush said Tuesday.

Next week, Bush is to travel to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for the first time since the attacks, and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are 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 believes such a system would protect America from accidental launches or launches by nations it regards as rogue states.

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