The Times of India Online
Printed from www.timesofindia.com > Americas
Bush offers Taliban 'second chance'
WASHINGTON: President George W Bush gave Afghanistan's Taliban rulers a stunning "second chance" on Thursday, saying if they hand over suspected terrorist chief Osama Bin Laden immediately, he may halt US-led military strikes against them.
"If you cough him up and his people today ... we will reconsider what we're doing to your country. You still have a second chance," he said in his first news conference exactly one month since terror attacks he has blamed on Bin Laden.
Bush, reporting the progress of the global war on terrorism, said US strikes begun Sunday were proceeding "with skill and success" and would last "as long as it takes" to bring the Saudi-born militant and his al-Qaeda network to justice.
"It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two, but we will prevail," the president said in the White House's ornate East Room, adding the shadowy group was "on the run."
Bush has said Bin Laden orchestrated the September 11 plot, in which terrorists used hijacked airliners as guided missiles, leaving some 5,500 people dead or missing after toppling the World Trade Center and sorely damaging the Pentagon.
He told a jittery US public that "the threat is ongoing" of new terror strikes on Americans, hours after the FBI put law enforcement on highest alert and warned such attacks could come in the next few days.
"We are taking every possible step to protect our country from danger. Your government is doing everything we can to recover from these attacks and to try to prevent others," promised Bush, who urged a return to normal economic activity.
"The American people have got to go about their business," he said. "We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business."
Bush, who has repeatedly denied he wants to engage in "nation building" in Afghanistan, said the United States would stay involved there "after our military mission is complete" to ensure stability in the region with UN help.
"It would be a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called nation- building - I would call it the stabilization of a future government - after our military mission is complete," he said.
Asked whether the war could spread to other nations the US State Department has said sponsor terrorism - such as Iraq or Syria - Bush said on aim of his "long war" was to "bring to justice the host governments" who shelter terrorists.
"Our focus is on Afghanistan and the terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan right now. But as well, we're looking for Al Qaeda cells around the world," he said in the first prime-time press conference of his presidency.
Bush said his efforts to rally reluctant Muslim nations to a global coalition to make war on terrorism were paying off: "All is strong and united on the diplomatic front."
He also reiterated that Washington was not at war against Islam but "murderers (who) have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand."
And he took aim at sometimes violent anti-US demonstrations in some countries with substantial Muslim populations, saying: "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us."
But "we've got to do a better job of making our case. We've got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East, for example, that we don't fight a war against Islam or Muslims. We don't hold any religion accountable. We're fighting evil," he emphasized.
The President closed with an appeal for all US children each to donate one dollar to a special relief fund, overseen by the Red Cross, to provide Afghan children with food and medicine ahead of the coming winter.
( AFP )