- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2001

President Bush yesterday promised to help the Philippines in its war against terrorism, a pledge the country's president implied is not necessary at least for now.
Meeting with Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mr. Bush said the United States stood ready to assist the predominantly Catholic nation in dealing with the small, militant Muslim Abu Sayyaf movement in the south that is holding two Americans hostage.
"We'll cooperate in any way she suggests in getting rid of Abu Sayyaf," said Mr. Bush.
But Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said her country does not need help at the moment.
"We have a framework on how to fight the Abu Sayyaf, how to fight terrorism in the southwestern part of the Philippines. And the framework covers what we need in terms of diplomatic assistance, technical assistance, assistance in winning hearts and minds, and military assistance," she said.
"We have advisers from the United States; we have equipment from the United States. All of these are part of our Mutual Defense Treaty. It just so happens that now the Mutual Defense Treaty facilities are being used in the fight against terrorism. But we have had this pattern for many years now, and I think the pattern is going very well as it is," Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said.
Mr. Bush lauded the Philippines leader on the 50th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. He said the Philippines has aided in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
"President Arroyo understands now is the time to make a stand against terrorist activity, whether it be in Afghanistan or in the Philippines or anywhere else al Qaeda exists because if we don't make a stand now, our children and grandchildren will not be able to grow up in a free world," Mr. Bush said.
"We've been working together a lot. We've been sharing intelligence. We've been talking strategies. The United States has got a very close relationship with the Philippines, and I intend to keep it that way."
Said Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo: "This treaty just demonstrates how we've been allies for so long allies in the Second World War, allies in the Cold War, allies in the Korean War, allies in the Vietnam War, and now allies in the war against terrorism."
Before meeting with Mr. Bush in the Oval Office, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, afterward declaring: "Evil must not be allowed to rule even one inch of this earth."
After a meeting at the Pentagon yesterday morning, she and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also used a brief press conference to stress the longtime defense partnership between the two countries.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo said on Monday the terrorist group is evil and that she is confident it will be defeated.
The group, tied to a string of killings, kidnappings, bombings and other violence in the southern Philippines, has been linked to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorism network. Abu Sayyaf has been holding two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham of Wichita, Kan., and a Philippines nurse for nearly six months.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Monday that a U.S. team was making an assessment of Abu Sayyaf and providing advice to Philippines troops.
"There is no question but that there has been a good deal of interaction between the terrorists in the Philippines and al Qaeda and people in Iraq and people in other terrorist-sponsoring states over the years," said Mr. Rumsfeld.
Mrs. Mcapagal-Arroyo vowed not to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf. "I have seen what terrorists can do. What we were fighting in the southwest Philippines is now a common fight. With assistance it will be the beginning of the end of terrorism in southwest Philippines," she said.
Also yesterday, Mr. Bush visited a Washington soup kitchen and urged Americans to "dig a little deeper into their pockets" during this season of Thanksgiving and give to smaller charities.
At So Others Might Eat (SOME) in Southeast Washington, Mr. Bush said contributions to community-based groups have dropped off since the September 11 terrorist attacks. He asked Congress to increase deductibility of charitable donations and "bring it to my desk so I can sign it before Christmas."
"I ask Americans to dig a little deeper into their pockets," said Mr. Bush. "We are a blessed nation. As we go into Thanksgiving, we ought to thank God for our blessings, for our families, for a faith-tested country. We ought to thank him for the protection that we've received since the attacks but at the same time, seek ways to help."
The president also announced the federal government will distribute more than $1 billion in grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for local nonprofit groups that assist the homeless.


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