Bush rallies anti-terror front at APEC
By Alex Frew McMillan
SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- The American delegation to this weekend's summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Shanghai is selling a new line on the fight against terrorism, highlighting the importance of the economic battle.
That's as President George W. Bush and senior U.S. officials do the political rounds at the gathering of the 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.
Terrorism and the U.S. response to the September 11 have swept to the top of the summit's agenda, which was originally intended to focus on business and means of boosting trade among the economies of the Pacific rim.
But American officials are painting the fight against terrorism in business terms.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick first expressed the new line on Thursday.
He said the fight against terrorism was not one targeting one nation, or the Muslim religion, but is rather a fight of the forces of construction, free markets and creation against the forces of destruction and evil.
U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to sell a similar story as he attends the 9th APEC Leader's Summit, which starts Saturday afternoon and runs through Sunday.
That line may be more palatable to the 21 APEC members, some of which are hesitant about U.S. intentions in fighting terrorism.
A draft declaration on terrorism expected to be signed this weekend has become increasingly watered down, leaving out all mention of the U.S. fight in Afghanistan.
China has also hoped to shift the focus of the APEC meetings back to business.
It wanted to use the APEC forum as a showcase of its booming economy but American diplomatic efforts have ended up dominating attention.
Speaking on Friday after his first round of meetings in Shanghai Bush said he had "near unanimous" support for not only combating terrorism but also the U.S. response in Afghanistan, which has now entered the ground-troops phase.
APEC's two biggest Muslim nations, Malaysia and Indonesia, have criticized the American-led war in Afghanistan.
The heads of both states face intense pressure from hard-line Muslims at home, but they have pledged more general support in fighting terrorists.
On Saturday Mexican President, Vicente Fox, pledged his support to the fight against terrorism in a speech to APEC CEOs.
He noted that not only will Mexico take over from China as host of the 2002 APEC meet but it will also join the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile Bush is expected to spend much of Saturday continuing to shore up international support for the war against terrorism, including talks with the leaders of at least two Muslim dominated nations.
First up is Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, followed by talks with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.
Mahathir has been critical of the U.S. action over Afghanistan and called for a halt to the airstrikes.
Later in the day Bush is also scheduled to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as well as the leaders of Peru and Singapore. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has also been doing the rounds, praising New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark for her country's vociferous support.
New Zealand has been one of the loudest voices calling for this week's APEC meetings to focus on terrorism, with Clark and Trade Minister Phil Goff saying it would be "ridiculous" for them not to address the issue.
On Friday Bush met Chinese President Jiang Zemin for the first time in what was described as a "cordial" meeting.
Despite differences that both sides noted, with Bush indirectly criticizing China's treatment of its Muslim minorities in the West, he praised the Chinese leader for standing "side by side with the American people."
For his part Jiang pledged China's support to the American-led efforts against terrorism saying he hoped that the U.S.-led military campaign would be limited to "clearly defined targets" associated with terrorism.
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