Anti-terror effort focuses on international cooperation, safety
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States continued its efforts to reach out to a variety of nations and governmental organizations Thursday, as work to build the Bush administration's anti-terrorism coalition intensified -- and as U.S. military units prepared to be dispatched to eastern points unknown.
President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell were active through the day as they plied both dependable allies and governments who, under less severe circumstances, might not be so inclined to offer the United States guarantees of solidarity and cooperation.
Bush met Thursday morning with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal at the White House. Saudi Arabia will play a pivotal, long-term role in the coalition, because the man the United States has established as the face of international terrorism -- Saudi expatriate millionaire Osama bin Laden -- maintains an extensive network of sympathizers within the oil-rich kingdom.
From this network, which is thought to include some wealthy people with conservative Islamic leanings, bin Laden is believed to have obtained millions of dollars to finance the activities of his al Qaeda umbrella group of terror networks. Bin Laden, who objects to the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, is not welcome in his native land, and is said to have been "disowned" by his extended family.
Al-Faisal, speaking to reporters after his meeting with Bush, said Saudi Arabia, in concert with the United States and its allies, wanted to send a "very clear message that the (effort) requires a very persistent battle to remove the infrastructure that terrorism relies upon."
"The fight against terrorism should be guided by the principle of identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice," he said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking later in the afternoon, said al-Faisal's comments may have sounded somewhat general, but he insisted that the Saudis had, in private, offered assistance in very specific areas. He did not elaborate.
Bush's focus was to turn later in the day to the perhaps the most traditional ally of the United States -- the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to arrive in Washington late in the afternoon for a meeting with President Bush, just a short time before Bush's planned 9 p.m. address to Congress and the nation.
Blair, who has just completed consultations with French President Jacques Chirac, will attend that address, and is to be seated next to first lady Laura Bush in the gallery of the House of Representatives.
Chirac visited Washington earlier this week and pledged the full support of France in the international fight against terrorism. Blair, like Chirac on Wednesday, is expected to view the devastation in Lower Manhattan during his U.S. visit.
Blair made a bit of history of his own during the day, becoming the West's first top-level government official to establish direct contact with the government of Iran in more than a decade.
Blair and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami spoke by telephone. Khatami, the moderate head of Iran's Islamic government, asked that Blair consider the population of Afghanistan, which is still though to be harboring bin Laden.
Blair initiated the call, ostensibly to offer his thanks for recent Iranian statements condemning terrorism and the dual attacks on New York and Washington. His overture to Khatami is instructive. Iran, while an Islamic state, is no friend of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, whom it regularly accuses of aiding the local drug trade. Iran and Afghanistan share a lengthy border.
Nor is Iran enamored of bin Laden.
Also Thursday, President Bush thanked Japan for pledging logistical support to the coalition. Japan is barred by its constitution from participating in offensive military action outside of its own territory.
E.U. seeks to broaden security cooperation
Powell appeared Thursday afternoon at the State Department with Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, who was in Washington to represent the European Union.
The E.U. took several steps Thursday to develop a stronger, more unified front against terrorism, and Powell used the occasion to express the gratitude of the United States.
"This is the latest demonstration that a strong, united Europe is essential for the United States and for the world," Powell said. "Let no one doubt the will and power of our free societies to defend our citizens, even as we safeguard democratic values."
Aid from the E.U., he said, would help bring terrorists to justice, and bring those aiding and abetting them to account.
At a hastily convened high-level meeting of E.U. justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels, attendees gave preliminary approval to 21 measures aimed at stopping terrorism on their soil, and eight measures improving anti-terrorism cooperation with the United States.
The eight measures aimed at helping the United States fight terrorism are not yet formally ratified, but are expected to go into effect immediately. They include:
* Joint evaluation of terrorist threats at four annual meetings.
* Reinforced cooperation with the United Nations.
* Coordination of the financial side of the fight.
* New Interpol cooperation with the United States. A police chief task force is to convene on this issue by the end of next week.
* Relaxation of the strict E.U. laws protecting the exchange of personal data. This is to go into effect by mid-November.
* New cooperation between Europol and the United States, including the formation of a new terrorism task force.
* Negotiations on extradition of suspects. Traditionally there has been concern over extraditing suspects to the United States, where the death penalty exists.
* New cooperation between the United States and the European Union on prosecutions
E.U. member nations have until mid-December to debate and ratify the measures aimed at stopping terrorism in Europe, which include:
* Creation of a uniform arrest warrant, which would make it much easier to track a suspect across all 15 nations.
* Smoother extradition of those arrested.
* Closing of financial loopholes to crack down on money laundering and other activities by tightening financial transparency laws.
* Putting in place tougher security at border crossings. * Passing uniform terrorism legislation. At present only six E.U. countries -- Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Britain and Italy -- have specific laws on the books dealing with terrorism.
"We are in favor of a strong coalition to fight terrorism," Michel said. "All international organizations and the United Nations in particular must be engaged in this endeavor."
Powell spoke of continuing high-level contact with several international organizations as the coalition continues to take shape - including the Organization of American States, NATO, and the Organization of Islamic Conferences.
"We are pursuing our agenda with individual countries as well," he said.
-- CNN's Ian Christopher McCaleb in Washington and Diana Muriel in Brussels contributed to this report.
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