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President to Address Nation Tonight

Aired September 20, 2001 - 15:06   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go to the White House now, where CNN's Major Garrett can bring us a little information, Major, about what the president plans to say tonight and how different it may be from what we've been hearing from him over the last eight days or so?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, monumental challenge confronts the president, Judy. White House advisers don't dispute that at all. Many, many goals for this speech, among the most important White House advisers say, is to educate the American public and Congress not only about, White House advisers say, the root cause is of the anger that led to the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11th, but what the United States is going to do about it, not only in the short-term but in the long-term.

The president is also going to make a very strong statement informing the world that this is not a campaign against Islam, it is not the west versus Islam. It is simply the United States and those who choose to join the coalition trying to root out the terrorism which threatens many, many country, not the least of which is the United States.

The president rehearsed the speech at the White House. He conferred with Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, chief speechwriter Mike Gersen and Karen Hughes, counselor to the president. We are told the speech will last about 30 minutes.

There will be a special guest in House gallery, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Among those who will not be present for the speech tonight and this is quite a change and it is indicative of the very intense security precautions Washington is now experiencing, Vice President Cheney will not sit in the traditional chair right behind the president in the House rostrum.

They will be sitting, president pro tempory, Robert Byrd of West Virginia,the seniormost Senator. Vice President Cheney will not be in the House chamber, he will be taken to another location for security reasons.

A couple of other developments to share with you, Judy as well, the White House, as Daryn indicated, rejected the Taliban's suggestion that Osama bin Laden voluntarily leave Afghanistan. Earlier today White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said this does not meet America's requirements. It is time for action not words, Ari Fleischer said.

And, of course, another development here this afternoon, senior administration official telling CNN that in all likelihood, the White House will pull back the name originally released as the name for the code name for the military operation in response to the terrorist attacks.

That name, Infinite Justice. Among the reasons, the White House says it will be likely repealed is that it was never authorized. That name was leaked and it has, in fact, caused some concern among Muslim nations, because according to Islamic scholars the term Infinite Justice is something only Allah can, in fact, dispense.

One other thing to point out, Judy. Just a moment ago here at the White House, the president concluded a meeting with a wide range of religious leaders from across the United States, representing almost every denomination, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish leaders, Catholic leaders, leaders from the Protestant faith of the United States. The all came out of the White House to read a statement saying they stand with the president, they are in solidarity. They are in prayerful of those who those who died in the September 11 attacks. And one of them, Iman Hamza Hannson from Haywood, California made this comment what happened to Islam on September 11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IMAN HAMZA HANNSON, ZATUNA INSTITUTE: Hate knows no religion, hate knows no country, hate is a human problem, and we have to eliminate those causes in our world that create despair, that create hopelessness and create a despair from the mercy of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: The religious leaders prayed twice with the president, we are told. At the end of the second prayer, a verse was sung by all including the president from America the beautiful -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Major Garrett at the White House.

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