- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002


President Bush signed a defense spending bill yesterday that he said is a down payment on his pledge to give the nation's military "every tool, every weapon and every advantage you need" to fight terrorism.

Mr. Bush went to the Pentagon, which still bears scars from the hijacked jet that hit it, and signed legislation that sets aside $317.2 billion for Defense Department operations in the budget year that began Oct. 1. The bill also earmarks an additional $20 billion for the military campaign in Afghanistan and for recovery from the September attacks.

"Since September 11, the skill, the daring and the courage of our men and women in uniform is now clear to all," Mr. Bush said. "It's clear to your fellow Americans, and it's clear to those who try to hide in caves."

Mr. Bush was referring to those responsible for the attacks, now sought by American soldiers in the hills of Afghanistan. Mr. Bush rallied the military, saying its current campaign is noble, just and a salvation for the Afghan populace newly liberated from the oppressive rule of the Taliban.

"You're delivering justice not revenge, but justice to agents of terror. And you're making this nation proud," Mr. Bush said. He urged the crowd, "Stay on course. Find the enemy."

Congress approved the defense appropriations last month, after weeks of butting heads with Mr. Bush over how to use federal resources to combat terrorism. The president is expected to seek billions of dollars more for domestic security in the 2003 budget he will submit to Congress next month.

"I look forward to working for next year's budget, with the priorities of winning this war and defending our homeland," Mr. Bush said. "I'm confident the spirit that prevailed in late fall will spill over this year as we continue to remember the great goals that face this nation."

But for now, Mr. Bush said, the new bill "makes a down payment on an essential commitment" to bolster the U.S. military and equip it for a protracted battle against terrorism.

"Our military must have every resource, every tool, every weapon and every advantage you need for the missions to come," Mr. Bush said. "We can never pay our men and women in uniform on a scale that matches the magnitude of their sacrifice. But this bill reflects our respect for your selfless service."

Also yesterday, Mr. Bush cautioned Iranian officials not to harbor al Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan and not to try to destabilize the country's new government. If the warning is ignored, he said, the U.S.-led coalition "will deal with them in diplomatic ways, initially."

Until now, the United States has quietly praised longtime foe Iran for its help in the war on international terror. Iranians and Americans have worked together to fight the Taliban and to create Afghanistan's new government.

Now, however, Iran is moving to safeguard its traditional influence in western Afghanistan, apparently unnerved by growing U.S. military influence on almost all sides, analysts said.

Iran denied reports yesterday that some al Qaeda fighters were in Iran. An official called Mr. Bush's warning "baseless" and said Iran wants neighboring Afghanistan to be stable and independent.

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