- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

WATERFORD, Mich. President Bush yesterday blamed al Qaeda for the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Yemen and Kuwait, saying it lent new urgency to his call for action against Iraq.
Mr. Bush seized on the new wave of terror as evidence that the United Nations must swiftly pass a muscular resolution against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom the president linked with al Qaeda.
"There is a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," said Mr. Bush, who warned that Saddam may soon use al Qaeda "to do his dirty work."
Meanwhile yesterday, Indonesia also linked al Qaeda to the explosions on the resort island of Bali, conceding publicly for the first time that the group was operating in the Muslim country.
"The Bali bomb blast is linked to al Qaeda with the cooperation of local terrorists," Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil told reporters yesterday after a Cabinet meeting in the capital, Jakarta.
Mr. Bush portrayed the recent attacks as the manifestation of a threat issued last week in an audiotape attributed to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command. The threat was televised one week ago, on a day when terrorists killed a U.S. Marine in Kuwait and two days after an explosion ripped through a French supertanker off the coast of Yemen.
"I believe the attack on the French vessel was a terrorist attack," Mr. Bush told reporters before departing the White House for Michigan. "Obviously, the attack on our Marines in Kuwait was a terrorist attack.
"The attack in Bali appears to be an al Qaeda-type terrorist definitely a terrorist attack, whether it's al Qaeda-related or not I would assume it is," he added. "And therefore, it does look like a pattern of attacks that the enemy, albeit on the run, is trying to once again frighten and kill freedom-loving people."
A U.S. intelligence official told Reuters news agency that the Bali bombings pointed to a "sophisticated" terrorist group, because of the large amount of high explosives used and the coordination of the attacks. A pair of explosions, one from a car bomb, tore through a maze of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Government officials said 181 persons died, although hospital workers put the total at 190. More than 300 people were injured.
With international outrage about the attacks growing, Mr. Bush yesterday called British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss a U.N. resolution that would essentially provide the United States and its allies a variety of triggers to invade Iraq. France and Russia, which are members of the U.N. Security Council, are holding out for milder language.
"How that language is worked out is up to the diplomats, but I am very firm in my desire to make sure that Saddam is disarmed," Mr. Bush said. "And in order to make sure the resolution has got any kind credence with Mr. Hussein, there has to be a consequence."
That consequence might be a military invasion, although Mr. Bush said yesterday he continues to favor a peaceful resolution.
"The use of the military is my last choice, is my last desire," he said. "But doing nothing, allowing the status quo to go on, is unacceptable."
Yesterday's remarks by the president came just as Senate Democrats hoped to change the subject of the national debate from foreign policy to domestic issues, like the troubled economy, which they believe would help Democrats in next month's elections. Democrats wanted to put the Iraq question behind them after voting last week in the House and Senate to support the White House against Saddam.
But the recent wave of terrorist attacks the deadliest since September 11 gave new impetus to the president's prosecution of the war against terrorism. Contrary to Democrats like former Vice President Al Gore who have sought to portray Saddam and bin Laden as unrelated threats Mr. Bush reiterated his belief that they represent two fronts in a single war on terror.
"Getting Saddam Hussein to disarm is all part of making the world more peaceful," the president said. "And it's all part of the war against terror."
Later, Mr. Bush carried his message on a political trip to Michigan, saying that Saddam "is a man who we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army."
"I know the threats," he added. "The threats should be vivid in everybody's mind, after seeing pictures of the devastation, the size of the bomb crater, the absolute needless murder, that took place in Indonesia."
Yesterday marked the first time Mr. Bush mentioned not only the Al-Zawahiri audiotape, which was broadcast on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, but also a recent letter attributed to bin Laden.
"We don't know whether bin Laden is alive or dead; you know, they keep floating supposed letters and radio broadcasts," Mr. Bush said. "They're trying to intimidate us, and we won't be intimidated."
The attacks also served to reinforce the president's battle against public complacency. Ever since September 11, Mr. Bush has been urging Americans not to forget the lingering danger.
"There'll be times in which people settle in and say, 'Well, gosh, there's nothing going on in the war,' and then something like this happens," the president said. "And here at home, we're not immune from these kinds of attacks."
Mr. Bush also expressed hope that the attacks would harden the resolve of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to crack down on growing terrorist activity in the world's most populous Muslim country.
"I will speak to Ms. Megawati soon," he said. "And I hope I hear the resolve of a leader that recognizes that anytime terrorists take hold in a country, it is going to weaken the country itself.
"And there has to be a firm and deliberate desire to find the killers before they kill somebody else," he added.


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