Bush says Afghanistan 'just the beginning' of war

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Monday the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is "just the beginning" of the fight against terrorism, and he warned Iraq and North Korea there would be consequences for producing weapons of mass destruction.

The president, asked about Iraq and about potential military targets beyond the Afghanistan war, expanded on the list of ways a country can get crosswise with the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism.

"If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist," he said. "If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. I mean, I can't make it any more clear."

"If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable," the president said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was restating long-held views -- not suggesting new policy or signaling post-Afghanistan plans.

Growing consensus

Senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not dispute Fleischer but said Bush's remarks reflected a growing consensus at the White House that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could be the greatest hurdle in America's war on terrorism unless he moves on the weapons issue.

Aides fearing Bush's comments would upset U.S. allies reluctant to back action against Iraq said late Monday that Saddam is not necessarily the next target after Afghan-istan. Other countries that harbor terrorists, such as Somalia, or need help to curb terrorism in their countries, such as Yemen, are just as likely to receive Bush's attention once the Afghanistan campaign is complete, they said.

In a Rose Garden news conference, Bush also:

Urged the Senate to pass an economic revival bill by Christmas.

Criticized researchers in Massachusetts for cloning a six-cell human embryo in hopes of developing medical advances. "We should not as a society grow life to destroy it," he said.

Welcomed Christian aid workers Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry to the White House, calling them "courageous souls" saved by prayer during three months in an Afghan prison.

'He'll find out'

On Iraq, Bush urged Saddam to allow weapons inspectors into the country "to prove to the world he's not developing weapons of mass destruction."

Asked what will happen if Saddam refuses, Bush replied, "He'll find out."

He said the leaders of North Korea must allow inspectors in if they want good relations with the United States.

"And they ought to stop proliferating," Bush said. "Part of the war on terror is to deny terrorists weapons."

He brushed aside suggestions that his new language meant a shift in tone against either country.

"I've always had that definition as far as I'm concerned," Bush said.

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