- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Excerpts of remarks made by President Bush yesterday at a White House meeting with congressional leaders:
I'm also so pleased to accept the invitation of the speaker and the leaders to come and address the Congress tomorrow night. I look forward to the opportunity to explain to the American people who it is and who would do this to our great country, and why why would people choose America?
A lot of our citizens have got a lot of questions about what has taken place and I owe it to the country to give an explanation.
Q: Mr. President, will you be able to tell all Americans whether they're going to be safe while you prepare to retaliate, or could terrorists strike again while we prepare for war
Mr. Bush:
I think America needs to know that we in government are on alert; that we recognize life around the White House or around the Congress is not normal, or is not the way it used to be, because we're very aware that people have conducted an act of war on our country; and that all of us urge our fellow Americans to go back to work and to work hard, but we must be on alert. Our government is working hard to make sure that we run down every lead, every opportunity, to find someone who would want to hurt any American.
Q: Sir, you've been stressing that this is not a war against Islam. However, there are some around the world who view the coming battle along religious lines. I'm wondering how worried you are that some view this as a holy war. And are declarations of jihad at all affecting U.S. plans?
Mr. Bush:
I appreciate that question. First of all, it is so important for my fellow Americans, as well as everybody in the world, to understand that America will hold those evildoers accountable. We don't view this as a war of religion, in any way, shape or form. As a matter of fact, Islam preaches peace. The Muslim faith is a peaceful faith. And there are millions of good Americans who practice the Muslim faith who love their country as much as I love the country, who salute the flag as strongly as I salute the flag.
And for those who try to pit religion against religion, our great nation will stand up and reject that kind of thought. We won't allow that to creep into the consciousness of the world. We're going to lead the world to fight for freedom, and we'll have Muslim and Jew and Christian side-by-side with us.
Q: Mr. President, do you feel like you've got the full support of [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf? And how hard is it going to be for him to live up to his pledges, given his domestic situation?
Mr. Bush:
Well, there's no question that President Musharraf has taken a bold position, which is to say he will work to the extent he can with America and our allies as we deal with the prime suspect in the case. And we appreciate so very much his statement of support.
I said we'll give the president a chance to perform, and I believe he has done done so. We will work and consult closely with Pakistan and India to make sure that that part of the world is as stable as can possibly be stable.
Let me say that in terms of foreign policy and in terms of the world, this horrible strategy has provided us with an interesting opportunity. One of the opportunities is in the Middle East. I'm pleased with the fact that [Palestinian Authority] Chairman [Yasser] Arafat and [Israeli] Prime Minister [Ariel] Sharon have taken positive steps toward bringing peace to the region. I think we have an opportunity to refashion the thinking between Pakistan and India. I think there's some interesting opportunities to shake terrorism loose from sponsor states.
Out of our tears I said I see opportunity, and we will seek opportunity, positive developments from this horrible tragedy that has befallen our nation.

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