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Text: White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

eMediaMillWorks
eMediaMillWorks
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001

Following is the text of White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's news conference on the president's recent conversations with foreign leaders.

FLEISCHER: Good afternoon.

The president today spoke with South Korean President Kim, early this morning. President Kim reiterated the deep condolences of the Korean people and the government. And said that South Korea will fully cooperate in the anti-terrorists effort, in the spirit of the United States-Republic of Korea mutual defense treaty. He also noted South Korea's readiness to participate in the international coalition.

President Bush thanked President Kim for South Korea's support and concerns for American people, and said we will stay in consultation about the war against terrorism. They both look forward to meeting in Seoul next month.

The president also spoke this morning with President Mbeki of South Africa. President Bush expressed his appreciation for South Africa's offer of search and rescue teams and medical assistance to help in America's recovery. President Mbeki offered his condolences and said that President Bush is taking on an important task to mobilize a global coalition against terrorism.

The presidents acknowledged the common threat of terrorism to both the United States and South Africa. And President Bush explained his effort to go after terrorists sanctuaries as well as countries that sponsor such evil.

Earlier today as well, the president had a meeting of his National Security Council. He met with the president of Indonesia, and the two presidents condemned the attack on the United States and pledged that they would strengthen existing cooperation in a global effort to combat international terrorism. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of religious freedom and tolerance and relations within and among nations.

As the leader of the world's largest Muslim population and the third largest democracy in the world, President Megawati joined President Bush in underlining the importance of differentiating between the religion of Islam and the acts of violent extremists--which is what took place in New York and here at the Pentagon in Washington--emphasizing that Islam is a religion of peace that neither teaches hatred nor condones violence.

President Megawati encouraged President Bush in his stated purpose of building a broad coalition across religious lines and cultures to deal with these new and dangerous threats.

And President Bush noted also that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States. President Bush assured President Megawati that the American people respect Islam as one of the world's great religions, and that the United States will join hands with freedom-loving people around the world of all religions to combat international terrorism.

The president will meet with the foreign minister of Russia this afternoon. He will meet with the foreign minister of Germany this afternoon.

And he will also meet with a bipartisan leadership group coming down from the Congress, including Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader Daschle, Minority Leader Gephardt and Minority Leader Lott, to discuss recent developments with the attack on the United States, as well as to discuss the important issues on the domestic agenda, particularly concerns about the American airline industry and a possible economic stimulus package, as well as whatever else may be on the minds of congressional leaders.

Finally, the president has noted the speech of President Musharraf today in Pakistan. The United States is very pleased with the cooperation of Pakistan. And President Musharraf's speech is an indication of the strong relationship between the United States and Pakistan to counter terrorism.

With that...

QUESTION: Is the president definitely for a stimulus package? Is it just a matter now of what it is? Does he think it's time now to give businesses tax breaks after giving individuals tax breaks?

FLEISCHER: Well, the president, first and foremost, wants to work with Congress and work closely with Congress, and that's why he's looking forward to this meeting with the leaders. And he wants to hear what the Democrats say, the Republicans say. And he wants to see how narrow or how wide the differences may be, because we are in a new era where the differences, really, between the two parties are narrowing out of a sense of trying to help the country. So he wants to work with Congress.

He has talked about a variety of plans that could include tax relief, that include some areas of spending. Certainly, the $40 billion of which a large portion will be spent in one-year period of emergency assistance to deal with the consequences of this attack, will have a stimulative affect on the economy.

And the president's also prepared to listen to ideas about regulatory changes.

QUESTION: Such as?

FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into specifics. Let them have their meeting, and then, as the president makes up any determinations or as agreements are reached with Congress, we'll have more to indicate.

QUESTION: Ari, we know that the United States made specific requests/demands of Pakistan and that Pakistan is cooperating. Can you say whether in some of these meetings or in separate phone calls the president is yet at the stage where he is making specific requests of various countries in the area of cooperating in this war?

FLEISCHER: It varies. It varies from country to country. I think it's a safe assumption that in some cases the answer to that is yes, in other cases that it's developing, and it will continue to develop as plans are made.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Can you say which countries have had various requests made of them?

FLEISCHER: No, I can't. I cannot.

QUESTION: Does the president feel any increasing pressure to act militarily? We see a new poll today, for example, that shows over 80 percent of Americans favoring some sort of military action.

FLEISCHER: As the president said last week, that while this attack may have begun by our enemies, it will end in a manner and at a time of America's choosing.

And I think the president is keenly mindful of the fact that this has to be done right.

It cannot be done early. It cannot be done late. It has to be done for the right reasons at the right time and because the response will be effective.

And this has been another reason why he's also mindful of the patience of the American people. The American people are patient people. The American people also want to see action.

The president is going to be guided by a very resolute sense of the only action that should be taken is action that will work, that will be effective and will be effective through the long term.

And so therefore whatever series of steps you take--and I urge you to think beyond just the traditional military--will be taken at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way as the president sees fit.

QUESTION: What do you mean by beyond just the traditional military?

FLEISCHER: Well, I keep reminding you that there're other steps that are financial, that are diplomatic, that are political. So I just think as you all approach this issue you need to consider that mindset that this is not--this is, as the president points out, a different kind of war. It's a new war of the 21st century, and there will be more elements to it than only traditional military.

QUESTION: When you say it has to be done right, are you talking about going after one person? And do we contemplate any change in our foreign policy that might have contributed to this?

FLEISCHER: The president has said that this is more than--much bigger than any one person. This deals with all terrorist networks that contribute to this form of terrorism and those who harbor terrorism.

The president has said that he sees in this an opportunity to do something for the next generations so that people will not have to suffer these terrorist attacks that have culminated in an attack on the World Trade Center.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... we could break diplomatic relations with any nation?

FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into any possibilities or hypotheticals, but the president has indicated currently they involve...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... what will you do, you would invade their country?

FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into any of the specifics, but I've indicated earlier that it can involve things that are military, things that are diplomatic, things that are political, things that are financial, all of the above.

QUESTION: Ari, last week officials were saying, Secretary Powell in particular, that the U.S. would present convincing evidence to other governments and peoples around the world when we acted to show the justice and accuracy of our actions.

This morning you seem to indicate that, in order not to compromise how we're gathering information, we might not do that. Did I read that right?

FLEISCHER: I think the question was put to me, one, about the United Nations, will you go to the United Nations before you take any action and present evidence to the United Nations? I was also asked if I had anything that I could contribute publicly here from this podium about proof that we have. And that's the context of my answer.

But the president will, of course, work with our allies and other nations as we make plans and move forward.

QUESTION: And so we will be presenting that convincing proof to other governments...

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, we're going to build alliances and coalitions, and that means interesting interplay always with different nations about how much they want to contribute, how much they will do based on their own desires and their own abilities. And that's going to vary from nation to nation. So I don't think you can make any one inference about sharing of information, for example, across the world. It will be different elements with different nations.

QUESTION: And one more on this. Given what a shadowy and nebulous creature we're dealing with, and the terrorists network, is the administration finding it hard to forge those links from these atrocities to specific individuals?

FLEISCHER: Well, that's a question of what evidence have you gathered? And I'm not going to get into the process of the evidence gathering.

QUESTION: Is it hard to prove this kind of thing, though?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's always accurate to say that the war on terrorism is a shadowy one. The terrorists do operate in a shadowy way. And that's why the president, from the beginning, has recognized that this is the, as he put it, new war of the 21st century. And that will be reflected in the actions he takes.

QUESTION: On the question of evidence, I mean, obviously, it would be helpful to the U.S. and those that it's asking to cooperate, to help demonstrate that this is not a war against Islam, it is based on specific evidence. That would obviously help the Pakistanis, it would obviously help a number of other people we've asked to participate in this with us.

Is the administration inclined in some way and in some forum or even privately in a one-on-one basis to provide whatever evidence or some kind of evidence so that those who are also exposed in this battle can make the case that they have seen convincing evidence and that it's real?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think all you have to do is listen to President Musharraf's speech today. And based on the information that Pakistan is aware of and the conversations that Pakistan has had with the United States, they are taking action that the United States government is appreciative for.

And so, I think the questions about evidence, for example, many of the nations around the world are already ahead of your questions. They are already working with the United States very productively and cooperatively.

And so, I think you have to ask yourselves the question of, are the other nations around the world asking the same questions that you are? And I indicate that many of those nations are beyond what you're asking.

QUESTION: I don't think there's any question that our allies are prepared to believe this. What we're talking about are people who are not necessarily our allies, and those who try to make the argument that the administration is simply waging war on Islam.

Is there anything you can do to soften those views? Or do you just chalk those people up as being beyond the pale in terms of your ability to convince them otherwise?

FLEISCHER: Well, I draw your attention to the meeting today, of course, in the Oval Office with the president of Indonesia; the conversations that the president has had with other Arab nations and Muslim nations. And those conversations have been very productive.

So that's--again, I'm trying to draw you off of that question a little bit, because it's not really reflective of what the United States is hearing from nations around the world.

And to get to Terry--to the degree there are any such concerns, different nations will have different issues that get addressed on a host of issues and I think that's not surprising.

QUESTION: You're confirming that you have shared information with Pakistan and some other countries?

FLEISCHER: No, I'm not confirming that. I said that you could take a look at the statements that were made by these nations. And they're satisfied with the actions that we are taking or requesting, and we're satisfied with their response. So I'm saying these nations have moved beyond your questions.

QUESTION: President Musharraf said that, in his opinion, the United States need not seek any further authorization from the United Nations General Assembly or the Security Council to act militarily because of the resolution passed last Wednesday. Does the administration agree?

FLEISCHER: You've been asking me that question for two days, and I pointed out to you that, under the United Nations charter, the United States has the right to self-defense. And of course, there was a Security Council resolution also.

Whether or not any other action will be taken at the United Nations is not a determination the president has made at this point, which is the same answer I gave yesterday.

QUESTION: All right, let me ask you this. On the scope of this global effort, you said yesterday, first, that it was against terrorism generally; then you said, against terrorist organizations that pose a direct threat to America. A moment ago, you said, seeking out a campaign against people--terrorism that affects people.

Is it still the administration's position this is only a campaign against organizations that pose a direct threat to Americans?

FLEISCHER: It's all of that. And that's why the president has indicated in this new war of the 21st century against terrorism, the United States, in concert with our allies and coalition partners, will target terrorism and those who harbor terrorists.

Terrorism presents a threat to people who love freedom and democracy throughout the world. And that was what I added to my statement yesterday, if you recall.

QUESTION: But is this a coalition against terrorism activity in, for example, Spain or Ireland or India?

FLEISCHER: We talked about this yesterday. This is a worldwide attempt to combat terrorism, where terrorism threatens people who cherish freedom and where terrorism is a threat to ourselves and to our allies and to our friends.

QUESTION: Given the president's sense of urgency to help bailout the airlines, does he also feel it necessary to provide direct financial aid to other industries, such as the insurance industry, reinsurance industries, hotels, motels, tourism, state of Hawaii, that are also having financial difficulties that they can trace directly to the aftermath of the terrorism activity?

FLEISCHER: On the domestic consequences, the president is looking at this, at least initially, in two distinct groups. There is, one, the airlines, which clearly have been directly and adversely affected as result of the attack on the United States. The president is considering what appropriate remedy is proper and wise and in the taxpayers' interest for the airlines to help them deal with the consequences of the attack.

More broadly speaking, the president is also, as he will today, talking to members of Congress and to his advisers about what steps could be taken to help the economy in general. And, of course, any steps that would help the economy in general could also have an impact on various industries.

QUESTION: But what about, like, hotels and restaurants located in New York or Washington that could show you proof that they've also lost money as a direct result of...

FLEISCHER: Well, that's why I was addressing the question of the economy in general, which, of course, has an impact on other industries. I'm not prepared to go down the line tick-tocking. I mean, who knows where you want to start and where you want to end? I've given you the answer that the president is focused on the airlines and then the economy in general, which, of course, has an impact on others and other sectors.

QUESTION: Most Latin American presidents have expressed messages of condolences and support for the United States in this perilous (ph) hour. Now it seems that the foreign ministers will be meeting here in Washington on Friday to invoke what is called in Spanish by the acronym PIAR, which is the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Rio, which was signed in September of 1947, in which these nations must come to the aid of all the nation members if one of them is attacked.

Did the United States ask for this meeting, or is this meeting a spontaneous thing?

FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, Secretary Powell is actually in Lima, Peru, meeting with the OAS General Assembly on September 11 when the attack took place.

But like all other regional security arrangements that the United States has, or that we are a signatory to, the Rio Treaty provides also a collective security mechanism through which we can coordinate our response.

We're gratified by the calls in the region to invoke the treaty, and look forward to exploring how its elements can be used. It's just another indication of how the world is speaking out and expressing unity and solidarity in a variety of ways with the United States in a way that will isolate the terrorists and enable the world to do combat with terrorism on a host of levels.

QUESTION: Ari, there's a press report I'm sure you're aware of that the pilot of one of the planes that hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center met last year with the head of intelligence from Iraq. Iraq denies it. Can you confirm that meeting took place?

FLEISCHER: I'm aware of the report, but I'm not in a position to confirm or give you any further indication on that.

QUESTION: Ari, the text of the president of Pakistan's speech, he said three things I wanted to see if you could confirm or elaborate on.

First of all, on the point you've been discussing, he said he was still asking the United States for evidence, which would seem to suggest that he wasn't completely satisfied yet with what he's seen concerning bin Ladden.

Second, he said that the U.S. has asked for intelligence-gathering logistics and permission to use airspace. He said nothing about actually placing troops on the ground there. If you could discuss that.

And thirdly, he also issued a warning to India not to take advantage of the situation. I'm wondering whether or not the U.S. has also expressed concern to India that it not take advantage of this in any way in Kashmir or elsewhere.

FLEISCHER: First, I'm not prepared to go into the list of all the specifics. President Musharraf did himself acknowledge three. I'm not prepared to go into whether there are any beyond that, but I will confirm those three.

On the first point, I read his speech, and I'm not aware of that statement, so if you could point that out to me, I'd appreciate seeing that.

But the president, as I indicated, is pleased with the actions taken by Pakistan. And certainly this is an important speech that the president of Pakistan has given to his people today.

And your third question?

QUESTION: India.

FLEISCHER: And what about it?

QUESTION: The president of Pakistan indicating concern that India might take advantage of this, that they were on a high alert against India, the military was. Has there been any U.S. communication with India about not taking advantage of this, any intercession on Pakistan's behalf?

FLEISCHER: The president did speak with President Vajpayee just the other day, and the president is aware of the regional implications of all the actions in this region. But the president is satisfied that the nations there understand the cause that they are all uniting behind, India, Pakistan, together with the United States. And the president is confident that that broader context will be the modality in which those nations operate.

QUESTION: Did he specifically ask the president of India not to take any steps related to Pakistan that would make the...

FLEISCHER: I'd have to go back and look at the exact phone call.

QUESTION: This morning the president talked about changing the mindset about war. Here you've been stressing, or at least mentioning, the other options like financial and other things that can be done. Are you concerned that perhaps too much of an emphasis has been given to the military or the assumption of a military attack?

FLEISCHER: Actually, I'm repeating the same thing I've been saying for three days. I continue to use that, because, again, I think it's so important for the American people, who have for so many years understood war to be a traditional war, as the president points out, that involves capital cities and movements of fleets and airplanes sitting in tarmacs, that this type of war is a totally different type of war.

And I was with the president all day on Tuesday last week, as you know, and as the president arrived back into Washington, D.C., and he got in his helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base and came back to the White House, it was late in the afternoon, early in the evening, and the way the helicopter comes into Washington, the president could see out the left window of the helicopter the smoke coming out of the Pentagon.

And the president, looking out the window, said out loud, and to nobody in particularly, he said, ``The mightiest building in the world is on fire. What you're just witnessing is the war of the 21st century.''

He understood right from the beginning that this is different, and the manner in which our enemies, in this case the terrorists, carry out the war against us is different--hijacking airplanes with plastic knives and flying them into buildings in America.

And our response will be different. Our response will not only be the traditional senses that the American people have become accustomed to when it comes to war, but it will be all those other elements that the president has talked about involving financial networks, that involve diplomacy, sanctions, trade, the economy, politics, carrots, sticks. And there will be a host of items, a host of measures that go into this, and it will be different from things that people have seen before.

It will also involve the patience of the American people, because it won't be conducted in the same manner that the American people have seen on a limited basis, thank God.

QUESTION: Attorney General and (OFF-MIKE), they have been speaking only attacks against Arab-Americans but not against Indian Sikhs. And nobody has spoken yet, only except in this building, you have mentioned it (ph).

And number two, in which category would you put Pakistan, which has been harboring terrorism into India's Kashmir and they had training centers even for Osama bin Laden and others?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think on your second point, that's why the president indicated that this is a chance for Pakistan. The president said that he spoke with President Musharraf and this is a time to see. Requests have been made, and now will be a time to see. And the president is pleased with what he has seen at this point.

On your first question, it's a vital question. And I think it's so important every day for everybody in government to continue to remind the American people, as General Ashcroft did this morning, that the American people should know no intolerance toward anybody based on what has happened. The fabric of our society is tremendously strong, but there are some weak edges, and everybody in our country has a role to speak out and do what we can to stop those weak edges.

QUESTION: Did you (inaudible) question because the Indian-American community, especially Sikhs, are really worried to come out because a number of Sikh priests have been also targeted in Fairfax, Virginia. And they are worried, and they had a vigil yesterday. They are asking that President Bush...

FLEISCHER: The president, when he visited the Islamic Center--I understand you're making the valid point about the difference between religions. But the president was very touched when somebody explained that his mother was afraid to come out of the house because she didn't want to wear her traditional headwear. And she was fearful that if she did, she would be subject to violence. And that really touched the president, and it is the reason why the president spoke out as he did. And I think it's just something that every day, every way, people in positions of responsibility have got to address.

QUESTION: Ari, you're talking about war. During war time, we sometimes make changes both with legal immigration and illegal immigration. Are there any changes planned in how we're going to be treating immigrants to this country?

FLEISCHER: No, there is nothing that has been brought to my attention. I know, in fact, that the president is still committed to honoring his promise to work with President Fox on the immigration changes to deal with Mexico and the guest-worker program and ways of making America welcome to immigrants.

It's so important at all times to remember the things that make America strong, and immigration is one of them. We can be a nation of immigrants, but we can also be a nation of laws. And we have to be both.

QUESTION: You mentioned yesterday that the response from the Taliban had been all over the lot. Is there any more clarity today? And if not, does that in itself indicate that they're not going to cooperate at this point?

FLEISCHER: No, there's been no more clarity today.

QUESTION: Ari, also in war times we've had a history of drafts. Is that something that's under consideration, or can we take it off the table?

FLEISCHER: No, there is no consideration of that at this time. And from my conversations with the Pentagon, it's not something they anticipate.

QUESTION: One Irish question and one British question, please. There were some references made about the IRA yesterday. Does the administration believe that one side of that conflict is more guilty than the other? Does the administration believe the IRA is a terrorist group or the New IRA--or the Real IRA?

FLEISCHER: Well, certainly, the Real IRA is listed on the official list of terrorist groups.

But, you know, I think the president said what he said for a reason. He is sending a message and he is rallying a coalition that those who engage in terrorism and those who harbor terrorists need to be worried about the actions that are our government will take.

QUESTION: Is one side of that conflict more guilty than the other? Is one more of a terrorist group than the other?

FLEISCHER: I don't look at it in a linear fashion.

QUESTION: Also, on Britain tomorrow, in a military sense, what do you plan to ask Prime Minister Blair to contribute, if you can?

FLEISCHER: Well, of course, as you know, I'm not going to indicate what military actions we'll request.

QUESTION: Ari, based on information you've gotten over the past week, what is the president's level of concern about additional attacks on U.S. soil?

FLEISCHER: Ongoing. I can't point to anything that would make it fluctuate up or down. But I can tell you that the president is concerned on an ongoing basis about maintaining security around the United States.

And that's why, for example, the Department of Transportation has been working with the air marshal program to protect aviation. That's why there have been such a beef-up in security at airports across the country.

It's a reminder that our open society has vulnerabilities. But, of course, being an open society also has allowed us to be as strong as we are so that we'll be able to prevail in this conflict.

QUESTION: If I can just follow-up on that. There's some law enforcement concern that because some of alleged hijackers were booked on flights on the 22nd of September that there may be some kind of second wave out there. Is there any concern at the White House that there is a...

FLEISCHER: There's nothing I heard about any specific dates, information like that. But as I indicated, it's an ongoing concern where security is being beefed-up, stepped-up. And, you know, the events of the 11th have sadly brought home to all Americans that we have to be mindful of violence here within our own borders.

QUESTION: Do you think that there were more attempts either scheduled to be made the same day or on some other date, even if it's not the 22nd?

FLEISCHER: You know, I can't speculate.

QUESTION: You have not heard one way or the other?

FLEISCHER: No. I haven't heard anything conclusive. I just know that this is a time to be cautious. The concerns are ongoing.

QUESTION: Many nations are calling for restraint of U.S. actions, China in particular. How much of what the U.S. is doing is bound by these bilateral and multilateral concerns? How much of what we're doing is unilateral?

FLEISCHER: It's going to be a healthy dose of both. The president is determined to lead on this question, make no doubts about it. And there will be many nations around the world that stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States. There will be other nations that stand a little bit less than shoulder to shoulder with the United States; some less than that.

But to the degree that any nation has a contribution to make, the United States will work with those nations. To the degree nations have a robust series of actions they can take, we'll work with them as well.

QUESTION: But are our hands tied at all by these calls for restraint? Is the United States still able to act unilaterally?

FLEISCHER: I think, frankly, it's just the opposite. When you take a look at how NATO has invoked Article 5; on how the Rio Treaty is being looked at now. I think it's just the opposite. The international community is rising up as close to one as an international community can get.

QUESTION: The president's view had been somewhat skeptical of the need for new economic stimulus, saying he wanted to wait and see what was already in the pipeline had taken effect. How has that view changed since last Tuesday?

FLEISCHER: Clearly, the immediate aftermath for the economy sends worrisome signals, and it's important to fully assess those signals. And when it comes to the making of the appropriate policy on an economic point of view, for what to do, what type of stimulus package--if there should be additional tax cuts; if there should be additional spending; if there should be regulatory changes--the president is going to adopt a very consultative approach with the Congress and a deliberative approach as well.

He'll take a look at the context of the economy, and he'll make a judgment.

QUESTION: Has he already reached a judgment that there obviously is some need for stimulus? My understanding is that experts on Capitol Hill are already talking about 1 percent lower growth than was anticipated in the third quarter...

FLEISCHER: He's leading that way.

QUESTION: Is that all you can say on that?

FLEISCHER: Yes, I think you have to let him have the meeting with the members of Congress. I mean, the purpose of these meetings is to listen to the members of Congress. And, you know, the president wants to hear from them. They're in touch with their consituents, they're in touch with the nation. He wants to gather their input, and then he'll probably have more to say. And certainly you all will see the president soon yourselves when he's in that meeting.

QUESTION: What are his economic advisers saying about the status of the economy now and the need for stimulus?

QUESTION: Are they telling him one way or the other what they think is best?

FLEISCHER: They are coming up with a series of options for the president, some of which I tried to describe here.

QUESTION: I still have a follow-up...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: We'll get back. I promised you I would. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ari. I just wanted to--some of it's related to Terry's question, which is the weight that the president's giving his coalition-building efforts. Does he feel that he wants to devote time and effort to that now and (OFF-MIKE) worry about possible military action? Or is he willing to forge ahead and take military action first and (OFF-MIKE)?

FLEISCHER: I'm not prepared to predict the timing of anything military. The president will continue to build his coalition and to talk to allies, and events will follow from that.

QUESTION: He doesn't feel that he's got some work to do first?

FLEISCHER: I think he's doing all the work at the same time.

QUESTION: Ari, two questions real quick. If the White House can expound on this relationship between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

And also, what specifically can the White House speak to on the labor front? All of these people--jobs are really going to be lost in all these companies as a result--both these questions--as a result of these terrorist attacks last week.

FLEISCHER: Well, on the first point, the president has made it clear that the Taliban should not harbor terrorists. Doesn't get more complicated than that.

QUESTION: But what kind of relationship is there between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban that you know of?

FLEISCHER: It's very close.

On the second point, of course, that's exactly why the president is taking a look at some of the ideas for how to stimulate the economy. He's very worried about the impact on the economy in general, on various sectors specifically, on the working men and women of this country at all economic strata who are risk of losing their jobs, from the airlines layoffs to minimum wage workers to people who worked in the World Trade Center in entry-level jobs and who are alive but have no job to go to.

So the president's worries extend widely, and that's why he's meeting with members of Congress today and talking to his economic team about what steps can be taken to help this country.

QUESTION: Ari, I have a follow-up to Terry's question about whether we have bilateral or unilateral action.

Your answer really suggested that the United States is going to do as it sees fit and other nations can come along to the extent that they're willing to. But it doesn't sound as though you're really talking about consultation with anyone.

FLEISCHER: Well, I think that the nations that president's talking to would strongly disagree with what you've just said. And that's the whole reason that the president has called more than 20 world leaders, that he's been meeting with a series of presidents and foreign ministers. He had dinner with the president of France last night. That's exactly the purpose of consultation and leadership, the two go hand in hand.

QUESTION: But is it consultation, or is it telling them what we intend to do?

FLEISCHER: It's both. That's called leadership and that's called consultation, and that's all added up and called diplomacy.

QUESTION: Ari, you made the point just a moment ago that it's also a reality that--well, let me put it this way. The president intends to move forward knowing that there are going to be a number of countries that may not be standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States and the United States will move ahead anyway.

FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, the world has stood up rather powerfully and in a way that I've never seen before, in terms of the numbers of nations that have stood up and said that, ``We're with the United States.'' So I think it's really just the opposite.

Are you saying that the United States should do nothing unless there's world unanimity? I'm not aware of any such doctrine.

QUESTION: Why should the American people believe that this government has solid evidence linking Osama bin Laden, you know, to these terrorists when it wasn't even able to determine that there were, you know, four planes were going to get hijacked and kill thousands of people? Why should we believe you?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think you're free to come to any conclusions that you choose. But if you take a look at the track record, for example--Osama bin Laden has already an indictment for the things that he has done before. Three's no question in the previous bombing of the World Trade Center that the al Qaeda organization and Osama bin Laden were behind it. The bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were all attributed to Osama bin Laden and his organization. There are indications that the bombing of the Cole were attributed to Osama bin Laden.

And as the United States government continues to gather evidence in this case, it'll be shared with governments. If any of the governments share your concerns, I'm sure they'll make it clear to us. We're hearing scant little of that.

QUESTION: Our Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, is just reporting that 100 military aircraft are being deployed to bases closer to Afghanistan. Can you confirm that?

And what would you tell the American public about the general movement of military assets on the last two or three days that we've seen?

FLEISCHER: That's the first I've heard of that. And as you know, I have a long-standing policy of any information that you obtain in the course of my briefing, I wait to confirm before I get into.

QUESTION: Ari, Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan decided earlier today to dispatch (inaudible) to provide logistical support for the U.S. military and other coalition members. Was a historic decision for Japan, given the constitutional constraints on its military action overseas. Would you welcome the decision?

QUESTION: And is the president willing to meet with the prime minister of Japan any time soon to discuss the decision?

FLEISCHER: Of course the president is always willing to meet with the prime minister of Japan, and conversations at all levels of government have been and will continue to take place. And I think what you just indicated is another sign of the cooperation around the world as nations stand in solidarity with the United States.

Thank you.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company