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Chirac shown New York devastation

NEW YORK (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac has became the first foreign leader to survey New York's devastated World Trade Center area.

Chirac was flown over the disaster zone in a helicopter on Wednesday, joined by the city's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Chirac, who met Bush at the White House on Tuesday, hailed the firefighters at the forefront of the rescue mission.

"I want to say bravo, thank you. You did that for the New Yorkers but also for all the free world, for the dignity of all mankind and we know that and we are beside you," Chirac said.

In his meeting at the White House, Chirac promised that France would work with the international coalition against global terrorism, but stopped short of endorsing Bush's characterisation of the campaign as a "war."

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German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, one of a string of senior foreign visitors who was to meet Bush later in the day, said his country would be a partner in such a coalition, adding: "We do not rule out any option."

Bush met with Chirac to discuss plans to cooperate to bring to justice the attackers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In remarks after their discussion, Chirac said he had an interesting meeting with Bush and now has a better understanding of the intentions and views of the United States.

He also promised his country's support for Washington in this battle.

"I want to tell President Bush, who is my friend, that we bring you the total solidarity of France and the French people, it is a solidarity of the heart," Chirac said before the meeting.

"We are completely determined to fight by your side this new type of evil, of absolute evil, which is terrorism, and France is prepared and available to discuss all means to fight and eradicate this evil," Chirac said.

He said there was a possibility of using French troops in such a battle, but only after extensive consultations and an agreement between France and other NATO countries about the exact objectives and conditions of intervention.

Bush praised the French president as a "man of vision," and said he was glad of France's help in this "new kind of war."

"This war will require determination and patience," Bush said. "People who love freedom, such as Jacques Chirac and the people of France, will join us. I am confident of that."

But CNN's Kelly Wallace said the two men also did not see eye to eye on how to describe the situation.

"I don't know if we should use the word 'war.' Now we are faced with a conflict of a completely new nature, a conflict that is attempting to destroy human rights, freedom, the dignity of man, and I believe that everything must be done to safeguard these values of civilization," Chirac said.

After the session, when asked by reporters why he didn't want to use the word "war," Chirac said the word was irrelevant.

"I don't want to get into a quarrel over semantics," he said. "Whether you call it war or you call it conflict -- call it what you want -- it is a completely new action, which requires new methods to fight against a new evil for which we must be well-prepared."

Bush said the "new war" is not about taking territory, but a fight for liberty and freedom.

"There are no beaches to storm, there are no islands to conquer, there are no battle lines to be drawn, it's a war that's going to take an international effort, it's going to take all of us to gather the necessary intelligence, the necessary information, to be able to find the location of terrorists, to work with governments to smoke them out of their safehouses to get them moving, and then have the courage to bring them to justice," he said.

Chirac's visit was scheduled well in advance of the terrorist attacks last Tuesday.

But a week of intense diplomatic activity continues on Wednesday with a visit to the White House by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Bush is expected to press her to crack down on hardline Islamic elements within Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

Also in Washington Wednesday are the foreign ministers of Germany and Russia. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's most vocal supporter in Europe over the past week, visits on Thursday.

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