France's Chirac lends U.S. strong support

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, reaching out to build a global alliance against terrorism, won a strong commitment Tuesday from French President Jacques Chirac, who called the hijacking attacks on the United States a "tragedy which does not have a parallel."

"We bring you the total solidarity of France and the French people," Chirac told Bush in an Oval Office meeting.

Bush also signed into law Tuesday a $40 billion package to rebuild from the devastating attacks. He also put his signature to a congressional resolution authorizing him to use military force against those responsible. Congress passed the measures quickly and nearly unanimously last week.

The Oval Office meeting came as the Bush administration stepped up its efforts to reach out to leaders around the world, even making overtures 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.

Bush, speaking before he and Chirac had a working dinner, said his goal was "to rally the world toward a campaign to find terrorists." He cited an "outpouring of support" from world leaders, including those in the Arab world.

"We will take the governments for their word and will work with them to disrupt the finances, the travel, the communications" of terrorists, he said.

For his part, 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.

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

Strained relations

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."

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 later 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."

Bush also called U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Carrot-and-stick approach

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was employing a carrot-and-stick approach. "In different nations, the carrot may be bigger," Fleischer said. "In other nations, the stick may be bigger."

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

It was the highest-level communication between the two countries in years, and Boucher called the conversation a good beginning.

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 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Cuba has strongly condemned the Sept. 11 disaster.

The United States also has said it is willing to explore the possibility of Iran's 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.

The administration continued to focus on suspected fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden as its prime suspect. Hundreds of Islamic clerics gathered in the Afghan capital of Kabul to discuss possible conditions for extraditing bin Laden to a country other than the United States.

American officials are skeptical that the ruling 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. ... It's a broad network of individuals and organizations that are determined to terrorize," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.

Dealing with networks

He said these networks have activities in 50 to 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 hard-hit U.S. airlines and hoped it would be ready early next week.

"They've got to be made whole," Mineta said. He said the attacks on Washington and New York are costing the industry $250 million to $300 million a day.

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