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America's New War: President Bush Meets in Oval Office with King of Jordan

Aired September 28, 2001 - 11:03   ET


JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE SR. CORRESPONDENT: We have to take you now to show you pictures of President Bush meeting in the Oval Office with King Abdullah of Jordan.




BUSH: It's great to see you. I look forward to our discussions. Jordan is a strong friend of America. And right after September 11, one of the early messages I received was from His Majesty, expressing the condolences of the Jordanian people as well as his own personal condolences.

I'm so pleased with the cooperation we have in fighting terror. I have assured His Majesty that our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know, that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion, the exact opposite of the teachings of the Al Qaeda organization, which is based upon evil and hate and destruction.

And finally, Your Majesty, as a welcoming gift, it is my honor to present you with a pen. This is not ordinary pen since it's the pen I used to sign the free trade agreement with Jordan this morning.

At long last, we have, together, accomplished one of your main objectives in terms of economic cooperation, which is a free trade agreement.

I'm proud of the actions of our leadership in the House and the Senate from both political parties that recognize the importance of trade with Jordan.

And so, Your Majesty, it's now officially the law and here's the pen that signed it.

ABDULLAH: Thank you very much, sir. We are grateful.

BUSH: Welcome back to the Oval Office. ABDULLAH: Thank you.

Sir, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for seeing us today. Obviously, I wished our meeting was under better circumstances, but obviously, we're here to give our full unequivocal support to you and to the people of America, and we will stand by you in these very difficult times.

And we are proud of our friendship. We are proud of the relations we've had with your country over many, many years. As far as His Late Majesty King Hussein. And it's in difficult times like this that true friends must stand with each other. And we'll be by your side, and we'll be there to support you. And I'm here to see what we can do to help.

BUSH: Thank you, sir.

We'll take a few questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

BUSH: You're after the retirement lady...


QUESTION: I'm now the retirement lady; I feel very old.

BUSH: Well, once you leave the White House, we view it as a retirement.


QUESTION: What's your reaction to the Saudis' announcement that the U.S. can use air bases? And also, do you feel that the military deployment is adequate? Do you feel comfortable...

BUSH: Well, first, we will not be discussing any of our military plans. It is very important for the American people to know that any public discussion of military or intelligence matters could jeopardize any mission that we may be thinking about.

Secondly, I am most pleased with the cooperation we're getting in the Middle East. Clearly, the cooperation with our friend the Jordanians is strong and powerful and we're united.

But the Saudis as well -- not only are they helping stabilize Pakistan, which is a very important part of our diplomatic efforts, they are also cooperating with us in terms of any military planning we might be doing. I'm really pleased. I had very good discussions. I know the King is as well with our Saudi Arabian friends.

QUESTION: Have you had any chance to study the long and difficult conflict that the Russians had in Afghanistan? And if so, what if anything did you learn that might be helpful in the conflict we have coming up? BUSH: Well, one of the things we will do is enforce part of the doctrine that says if you harbor a terrorist you're just as guilty as the terrorist. And in my speech to the nation, I laid out the conditions that we expect the current government of Afghanistan to follow. I am fully aware of the difficulties the Russians had in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people and our State Department people are also fully aware.

It is very hard to fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces, and we understand that. That's why I have explained to the American people that the new war on terror is going to be a different war. It will be fought on a variety of fronts. It will be fought on a financial front. It will require the best of intelligence and the sharing of intelligence. There may or may not be a conventional component to it.

I said loud and clear, sometimes people will be able to see what we do on the television screens. At other times, the American people won't be able to see what we're doing.

But make no mistake about it, we're in hot pursuit. We're going to enforce the doctrine. We're going to be diligent and patient and determined to bring people to justice and to route (sic) out terrorist activity around the world.

And so there have been lessons learned in the past, and our government is very aware of those lessons.

QUESTION: Mr. President, if I may to both of you, first, Your Highness. How difficult is it for middle eastern nations to unite against someone who claims to be speaking and acting on behalf of Islam?

And, Mr. President, what's your reaction to the word today that the Taliban says it has now located Osama bin Laden and has delivered an invitation to him to leave the country?

BUSH: Well, first of all -- I'll answer first and then Your Majesty. First, there is no negotiation with the Taliban. They heard what I said, and now they can act.

And it's not just Mr. bin Laden that we expect to see and brought to justice, it's everybody associated with his organization that's in Afghanistan and, not only those directly associated with Mr. bin Laden, any terrorist that is housed and fed in Afghanistan needs to be handed over. And finally, we expect there to be complete destruction of terrorist camps. That's what I told them. That's what I mean. And we expect them to not only hear what I say, but to do something abut it.

And I want to tell His Majesty what I said the other day, and then he can respond to your question.

The Al Qaeda people don't represent Islam as far as America is concerned. They represent evil. They're evil people. And that's not the Muslim faith that I know and understand, nor is it the Muslim faith of millions of American\s who are proud and devout Muslims.

ABDULLAH: Well, sir, as the president so well put it, what these people stand for is completely against all the principles that Arab Muslims believe in. And so, on those principles alone, I think it'll be very, very easy for people to stand together.

As the president said, this is a fight against evil. And the majority of Arabs and Muslims will band together with our colleagues all over the world to be able to put an end to this horrible scourge of international terrorism, and you'll see a united front.

STAFF: Thank you all very much.

BUSH: Thanks. A good job. Good luck to you.


KING: The president meeting there with King Abdullah of Jordan. I want to bring our Kelly Wallace into the conversation in just a second to discuss that.

First, I want to issue two quick apologies. One to Christiane Amanpour for having to cut her off to bring us that tape. The other to the president of the United States. When reporters go into the Oval Office like that, there is often a lot of jostling. We have an agreement with the White House which we promise not to show the president out of focus like we did at top of tape as the reporters get into position. Sometimes in a breaking news environment like this, we try to bring these tapes and these comments to you as soon as possible. My apologies to the president and the White House staff for that.

Now to Kelly Wallace at the White House.

Kelly, some tough words from the president there. Once again, he says, harboring a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist. And asked about the military operation, didn't want to get into the details, but he said -- quote -- we're in hot pursuit.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Tough words indeed from the president, and responding to sort of in some ways this latest diplomatic effort by the Pakistani delegation to go to the Taliban. The president making it very clear that the Taliban had heard what the president has said. His demands are very clear. They include turning over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, any other associates with the Al Qaeda network and then shutting down those terrorist training camps. The president making clear that now is not the time for negotiations, or time for words; it's the time for actions.

John, two other interesting points. It's very obvious, and it's really the first time we heard the president responding to the experience of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, saying that he said that the United States has definitely learned lessons from that, that the Pentagon, the State Department has also learned lessons, and he tried to once again make it clear that you can't fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces, and it's a repeated message we're hearing from this president, that this going to be campaign unlike any other the United States has ever seen.

There's some things that people in this country will see on television, some parts of this military campaign. There are other parts where the American people will not see it. But the president making clear we are in hot pursuit, making clear that the military part, as well as political, diplomatic and economic parts of this fight are ongoing -- John. KING: From the Jordanian king, reaffirmation of what the president has been saying. That must be viewed as helpful by the White House to have the King of Jordan, an important leader from the region, make the case that this is a campaign against terrorism, not Islam?

WALLACE: Enormously helpful, John.

And that is what is important. With these meeting and with the remarks that the king made as well. As the president reaches out to moderate Arab nations, very important to get out this message that this is a campaign against terrorist and those who harbor them, and not against Muslim nations, not against Islam. A lot of concern, obviously, any response that the U.S. and the world community might take to those September 11th attacks, that there could be great instability, that people in the Muslim communities, others who are support Islam may take as attack against that religion. That is why it's a continuous message. And obviously the administration feeling very good by having King Abdullah sitting side by side with the president, reiterating this. "This is a war against evil," in the king's words, "not a war against Islam" -- John.

KING: Kelly Wallace at the White House, thank you for that. We'll check in with you a bit later. No negotiating with the Taliban. Those are the president's words. They could be all the more important today, given the breaking developments in the region. CNN being told that a Pakistani delegation that requested that the Taliban turn over Osama bin Laden has been told no.




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