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America's New War: The President's Growing Coalition

Aired September 19, 2001 - 06:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in with Kelly Wallace, who is at the White House this morning. Our correspondent there has been checking on President Bush's coalition building, which is fast under way -- Kelly, good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon -- exactly.

And just picking off on what you just mentioned -- that meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is very, very important, because this will be the first meeting between Mr. Bush and the leader of a Muslim nation. The administration very much trying to build coalition with Muslim allies to make the case that this is a campaign against terrorism, not a campaign against Islam.

You saw the president doing more coalition building last night. He met with -- for about two hours with French president, Jacques Chirac, the French leader, pledging total solidarity with the U.S. and also said it is conceivable -- that is a word he used -- that the French would provide some military troops for any international fight against terrorism. But what may be just a question of semantics or may pose to be a problem for the Bush administration down the road, the French leader refusing to use the word "war" to describe the current situation. Instead, he said that this is a conflict.

Now, the president meeting with other leaders today -- he will sit down and meet with the foreign ministers of Germany and Russia.

He will also be meeting later with House and Senate congressional leaders. A big focus there will be on trying to finalize agreement on what's looking like a $15 billion package to try to bail out the struggling airline industry.

Now, as for the way things started yesterday, well, they started on a rather somber note -- President Bush coming out to the South Lawn with his top advisors and hundreds of White House staffers. They were coming out to mark the exact moment on Tuesday, September 11, when the deadliest terrorism attacks on U.S. soil got under way. You see the president gathering there with Karen Hughes, his counselor, the vice president. And then they bowed their heads to remember those killed and the thousands still missing in attacks in New York, Virginia and in Pennsylvania.

And that was quite a powerful moment yesterday at the White House. Many staffers leaving that showing quite -- that they were quite moved and quite emotional about what has happened over the past eight days now.

Mr. Bush, though, also using his presidential powers, taking out his pen to sign into law a measure that would give $40 billion in emergency aid to New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania to help with search, rescue and rebuilding efforts.

Leon, he also signed a congressional resolution into law that gives him the authority to use force to retaliate for last week's deadly attacks -- military planning continuing. Mr. Bush expected, as he always is, in the Oval Office around 7:00 a.m., and the first order of business often, meeting with his national security team -- Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: OK, Kelly. You know, I want to ask you quickly if you can tell us: Do you know or do we have any idea right now about how many countries President Bush is going to be talking with and is going to be bringing on board in his coalition? Because some of the experts that we have been talking with have kind of indicated that perhaps a broad coalition with a lot of members might actually complicate the matter more.

WALLACE: Well, you're getting the sense that the administration is talking to everyone. It's coming from President Bush. He's been working the phones. I don't have the exact number. I think he has already talked to some 20 world leaders. He is obviously doing a lot of face-to-face meetings. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been working the phones.

What is interesting here, Leon, it's not just traditional U.S. allies, like Britain and France. U.S. also reaching out to the Arab world, to King Abdullah of Jordan and others, Saudi Arabian foreign minister here this week. Also which I think is rather interesting, the U.S. also reaching out to very untraditional countries: the Sudan, Cuba, Syria -- Secretary of State Colin Powell reaching out to those countries. The message basically: What do you know about these terrorist groups and these networks? And what are you willing to do to help the United States?

So it appears to be a very broad-based coalition; the United States feeling that's the best way to kind of have this worldwide campaign against terrorism -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, I think that list you just mentioned defined the term "strange bedfellows."

WALLACE: Yes.

HARRIS: Kelly Wallace at the White House, thank you very much. We'll talk with you later on.

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