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Rice: Fight 'can't afford to have a pause'

Rice said the U.S. war against terrorism could last "more than one administration."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush believes U.S.-led forces are making "tremendous progress" in the war against terrorism and "can't afford to have a pause" -- even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.

Great strides have been in making Afghanistan inhospitable to terrorist groups, Rice told reporters, including the destruction of many al Qaeda training camps and Taliban military assets. Washington initiated its Afghan military campaign after linking the September 11 terrorist attacks to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and accusing the Taliban of sheltering him.

But Rice stressed that the United States and its allies are fighting the war, which she called a matter of self-defense, on more than just the military front. "Every time you see people being arrested and rooted out in countries all over the world, you are seeing cells that are potentially being broken up that are, perhaps, out there waiting to commit terrorist acts," Rice said.

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"This is the first time in international history that you have had the kind of contraction of intelligence assets, law enforcement assets from around the world on a network like this."

These international initiatives serve U.S. objectives, which include incapacitating and rooting out al Qaeda members, ensuring Afghanistan no longer serves as a sanctuary for terrorists and targeting all terrorists, not just those associated with bin Laden.

"You can't be in favor of one set of terrorists and continue to harbor other terrorists," Rice said.

Rice also addressed the timeframe of the war on terrorism, saying it could last one year, several years or "more than one administration."

But, despite some Islamic leaders' pleas, the campaign would not stop during Ramadan, which begins later this month, Rice said. The Bush administration doubts al Qaeda would "be observant of any rules of civilization," she said, adding they and the Taliban have "to be taken out aggressively."

Bush himself will address the war on terrorism, publicly and privately, next week.

The president will address the American people and a gathering of Central European leaders via satellite next week, and he will deliver his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly on November 10, Rice said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari will concurrently meet with Bush next week. Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika are set to meet with Bush individually.


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