- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

Vice President Richard B. Cheney came out swinging in a speech to Washington's foreign policy establishment yesterday with a vow that the war against al Qaeda will "end in their complete and utter destruction."

"We face an enemy that is determined to kill Americans by any means on any scale and on our soil. We're dealing with a terror network that has cells in 60 countries. Such a group cannot be held back by deterrence nor reasoned with through diplomacy," the vice president said.

Mr. Cheney made his comments after a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in which he hailed last year's tax cuts as having cushioned the recession.

He also stressed that economic power underlay the war on terrorism.

The speech marked a coming out of sorts for Mr. Cheney, who since September 11 has maintained a low public profile in the president's war Cabinet.

Yesterday, he laid out some of the toughest language by any administration figure since the air campaign began Oct. 7 to destroy al Qaeda and force Afghanistan's Taliban rulers from power.

Mr. Cheney said that because al Qaeda is a diffuse terror network dedicated to killing Americans, "the war against terror will not end in a treaty."

"There will be no summit meeting, no negotiations with terrorists," he said.

Mr. Cheney said the tools that kept peace or won the conflicts in the Cold War, such as deterrence, no longer apply when small, non-state groups prowl dozens of countries and seek devices that would allow them the mass murdering of civilians.

"The attacks of 9/11 confront us with a whole new set of considerations, from our ongoing vulnerability to international terrorism to the possibility that terrorists may some day gain access to weapons of mass destruction," he said.

"In the rubble of Afghanistan we found confirmation, if any were needed, that bin Laden and the al Qaeda network were seriously interested in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons."

Using the threat that bin Laden and others planned to use such weapons against the United States and its allies, Mr. Cheney delivered a veiled threat to Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which President Bush called an "axis of evil" over their nuclear weapons and missile programs and terrorist links.

"With all of the urgency that is required, we will work to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or allowing them to provide those weapons to terrorists," he said.

Although Western, Islamic and other nations have joined in the anti-terrorism coalition, Mr. Cheney vowed that the United States would lead.

"America has friends and allies in this cause, but only we can lead it," Mr. Cheney said.

The United States, he said, will do so because of "the character of our people, the strength of our ideals, the might of our military and the enormous economy that supports it."

The State Department yesterday reprimanded France, whose foreign minister called U.S. foreign policy "simplistic" and cautioned against calling Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil."

The French ambassador was summoned to a meeting at the State Department, where "we said we were unhappy with those comments," a State Department official said.

Mr. Cheney said he has been forced to keep a low profile since Septmber 11 to assure the continuity of government in case of another terrorist attack on Washington.

"It used to be the prime concern, I think, for the security of the president was the individual with a weapon, a nut with a gun," he said. "Now we've had to contemplate a whole different kind of threat where we're talking about conspiracies, well-organized groups with possibly support from outside the nation able to put together, for example, something such as the attack on September 11th."

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