- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

President Bush yesterday froze the financial assets of terrorist groups in the United States and demanded that foreign banks do the same or share the fate of the terrorists in having their American assets frozen.
Mr. Bush signed an executive order just after midnight that demonstrated the first phase of his war against terrorism would be financial, not military.
"At 12:01 a.m., this morning, a major thrust of our war on terrorism began with the stroke of a pen," Mr. Bush announced in the Rose Garden. "Today, we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network.
"Make no mistake about it: I've asked our military to be ready for a reason," added the president, who was flanked by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. "But the American people must understand this war on terrorism will be fought on a number of fronts, in different ways. The front lines will look different from the wars of the past."
Mr. Bush acknowledged that many terrorist groups operate primarily overseas and "don't have much money in the United States." But he promised to punish foreign banks who don't cooperate by freezing their U.S. assets and transactions, a step he called "draconian."
"We have developed the international financial equivalent of law enforcement's 'most wanted' list," said the president, who listed 27 organizations he said were financing terrorism. "In taking this action and publishing this list, we're acting based on clear evidence, much of which is classified, so it will not be discussed."
Mr. O'Neill said some organizations on the list solicit charitable donations that are funneled into terrorist organizations.
"Donors now will know to avoid these charities that front for terrorists," Mr. O'Neill said. "This order is a notice to financial institutions around the world, you have two choices: Cooperate in this fight or we will freeze your assets.
"We will punish you for providing the resources that make these evil acts possible," he added.
Mr. Powell, a warrior by training, said he had no problem with the first phase of the war against terrorism being fought in banks and not on the battlefield.
"We're going after terrorism," he said. "And this is an indication of how we're going to use all the elements of our national and international power to do it.
"They require safe havens," he added. "They require places that will get them succor and comfort."
Mr. Bush said many nations have already stepped forward to help the United States starve terrorists of financial assets. But others will have to change their internal banking rules.
"We've got a big task ahead," the president said. "In Europe, for example, there are probably going to need to be some laws changed in order for those governments to react the way we expect them to."
In addition to obvious targets like the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's organization, yesterday's list included innocuous sounding groups like the Wafa Humanitarian Organization.
"Just to show you how insidious these terrorists are, they oftentimes use nice-sounding, nongovernmental organizations as fronts for their activities," Mr. Bush said. "We have targeted three such NGOs. We intend to deal with them, just like we intend to deal with others who aid and abet terrorist organizations."
During his address to a joint session of Congress last week, Mr. Bush vowed that his war "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."
But yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld tried to lower expectations. "I think the idea of eliminating it from the face of the Earth is setting a threshold that's too high," he said. "Trying to stamp it out in every single locale all across the globe in perpetuity sounds like a pretty big task to me."
The president yesterday met with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who pledged his support in the war against terrorism. Mr. Bush thanked Canada for accepting U.S. airline flights that were barred from landing in America during the hijackings on Sept. 11.
"The Canadians were traumatized by what happened two weeks ago," Mr. Chretien said. "And we had the occasion to receive 45,000 Americans on the Canadian soil who had to be diverted to Canada.
"And we had a great demonstration of support when 100,000 Canadians appeared to offer support to our neighbor and friends and family, the Americans," he added.
Mr. Bush welcomed the support.
"You know, after this terrible incident on September 11th, one of the first phone calls I received was from the prime minister, offering all his support and condolences to the United States and our citizens," the president said. "It was like getting a phone call from a brother."
Even before that call, Mr. Bush had been contacted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"When I was on Air Force One and ordered alerts, increased alert status for our troops, President Putin was the first call I got," Mr. Bush said. "And he made it clear that he would stand down their troops."
Mr. Bush said the reaction underlined the fact that the Cold War was over because in the past, the Russians would have also put their own troops on heightened alert.
The president continued to cobble together his global coalition against terrorism yesterday, calling the prime minister of Thailand and preparing for today's meeting with Japan's prime minister. Mr. Bush will meet with the Belgian prime minister on Thursday and the king of Jordan on Friday.
The president also met privately yesterday with the families of passengers and the crew of the hijacked airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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