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Bush to address Congress, prepare nation for long battle
Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- With the military on the move, President Bush addresses Congress and the nation Thursday night to unite Americans for a long battle against terrorists and pledge emergency action to repair the fraying economy.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declined to rule out Iraq as a target of the anti-terrorism campaign. "There are a number of nations that are on the official, public list of terrorist nations -- nations that have either sponsored terrorism or been involved in it -- and we know that a number of those countries are in the Middle East," he said on NBC's "Today."
But it is up to Bush to decide what targets will be attacked, Rumsfeld said.
In the speech, set for 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will make the case against No. 1 suspect Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, officials said Wednesday.
"I look forward to the opportunity to explain to the American people who would do this to our great country," Bush said. "And why."
In Afghanistan, hundreds of Islamic clerics called on bin Laden to leave the country voluntarily but gave no indication they would support handing him over to the United States. The clerics had been convened by the military rulers of Afghanistan to weigh U.S. demands that bin Laden be turned over.
They said they were prepared to call for a holy war against the United States if U.S. troops attack Afghanistan in an attempt to capture bin Laden, a Saudi exile.
In his address to Congress, Bush will not seek a declaration of war or announce that a military strike is under way, officials said. Instead, he will ask imploring Americans to have patience for a long, painful hunt for terrorists.
The words are meant to build resolve as soldiers, ships and aircraft head across the sea for conflict. Bush is also expected to warn that some of those heading out may not return.
Less clear was what action the president would propose to shore up an economy that had been slowing for more than a year even before the terrorist attacks devastated the airline and hospitality industries.
Meantime, the pursuit of bin Laden and his elusive, loose-knit group of terrorists continued on several fronts.
The FBI enlisted banks to follow the money trail in last week's terrorist attacks, in which two hijacked planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and a fourth into the southwestern Pennsylvania countryside. More than 5,400 people were believed killed.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller planned to visit the Pennsylvania crash site of United Flight 93 on Thursday. Just before the crash, several of the passengers on the flight made cell phone calls saying they planned to attack their captors.
With the number of people detained on immigration charges for questioning rising to 115, the FBI sent a list of the alleged hijackers to banks asking them to search for any transactions involving 21 people wanted in connection with the attacks.
Agents also were investigating the possibility that some of the suspected suicide hijackers used fake identities of people who may still be alive.
Ashcroft said Wednesday that evidence shows the terrorists suspected "are harbored, supported, sustained and protected by a variety of foreign governments."
The economic fallout from the terrorist attacks sent stocks plummeting again Wednesday. Only a late burst of buying saved the Dow from its worst three-day point loss ever.
Bush planned to meet Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, on Thursday. Al-Faisal has expressed support for the war on terrorism.
The president also was mindful of the impact on the economy of last week's attacks, promising that the government would respond, pledging to help the hard-hit airline industry in particular. But Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was expected to tell Congress on Thursday to take a go-slow approach before enacting any massive stimulus package.
The Pentagon has given the coming struggle a name -- "Operation Infinite Justice." The military action began in earnest Wednesday as the Air Force dispatched dozens of warplanes to the Persian Gulf area.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt also was sent toward the Mediterranean to join two aircraft carriers already in the region near Afghanistan. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding there.
The terrorist attacks and a two-day, federally ordered shutdown of the air travel system set in motion a crisis for airline companies -- American and United airlines announced 40,000 layoffs Wednesday.
The parent company of American, the world's largest airline, said it will lay off at least 20,000 of its 138,350 workers. The cuts by AMR Corp. will affect American, TWA and American Eagle.
United matched the bad news, saying it would lay off 20,000 of its 100,000 workers. Just a day earlier, Boeing said it planned to cut as many as 30,000 jobs by the end of next year.
"This is not a ripple effect," said Rep. Jennifer Dunn, whose suburban Seattle district includes thousands of Boeing workers. "This is a tsunami."
Bush plans to ask Congress to prop up the airline industry, which already was suffering from this year's economic downturn.
He will ask for $5 billion in immediate cash aid plus significant help with their insurance liability.
The president will also spend $3 billion of the emergency funds that Congress gave him over the weekend to pay for airline and airport security improvements.
But Bush is putting off for now airline industry calls for loans to avert bankruptcies, an administration official said Wednesday. The official said such action might be taken later.