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Bush Addresses Press

Aired March 18, 2002 - 15:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again I'm Bill Hemmer. Good afternoon. Take you to Missouri right now. The president any moment now comments about the church grenade throwing in Islamabad.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... he is very sympathetic. Obviously.

He was deeply concerned about the American loss of life and he wanted to share that with me. And I appreciated his phone call.

We both talked about the need to continue finding people that would kill for political reasons. And it goes to show that there's still some -- that part of the world is a dangerous place at times.

And the tougher President Musharaff is and the more steadfast the United States is, the stronger we stand against terrorist activity, the more lives we'll ultimately save. And...

QUESTION: Mr. President...

BUSH: And he doesn't know who it is yet -- excuse me for a minute -- he doesn't know who it is yet. But when we find him, we'll bring him to justice.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Vice President Cheney is in the Middle East. Shouldn't he meet with Chairman Arafat? Would you like to see that happen? And, if no, why not?

BUSH: I talked to the vice president today. And he's had a very good visit in the Middle East. He is -- as a matter of fact, he was 15 minutes away from going in to see Prime Minister Sharon. And he had General Zinni with him. General Zinni is optimistic that we're making some progress in the Middle East.

And the answer to who the vice president ought to meet with or not meet with depends upon General Zinni's recommendations. He's the man on the ground. He is in charge of trying to foster an environment such that we can get into Tenet and then eventually get into the Mitchell peace plan. Our government has laid out a pathway to a peaceful resolution of a very difficult set of problems. And Zinni's over there working hard to get us into that process.

QUESTION: Operation Anaconda, we're being told, is successful.

BUSH: The operation? Yes.

QUESTION: Operation Anaconda, we're being told is successful, and it's over. And do you feel the war in Afghanistan, that part of the war, is now over?

BUSH: I don't. I feel like we have a lot more fighting to do in Afghanistan. First of all, we were successful in Operation Anaconda, and I want to thank our troops, our brave troops, for fighting an incredibly tough terrain and against difficult circumstances. And the difficult circumstances are not only the terrain, it was the fact that we're fighting against an enemy that refuses to surrender. These are people that are there to die. And we accommodated them.

But there are more Al Qaeda killers in Afghanistan and perhaps in Pakistan willing to come back into Afghanistan. The reason -- and I know for a fact that they were trying to -- in the midst of this battle, in the midst of the United States military and our coalition forces being very successful, they were trying to reinforce. And these are people that are -- if they're willing to reinforce in the midst of the Shah-e-Kot mountain range where they were getting wiped out, they're willing to come back into Afghanistan to continue to try to hurt us.

These are killers. They hate America, they hate America's freedom, they hate what America stands for. And they're relentless. But so are we. And we'll be more relentless than they are. And that's why I've urged the American people to be patient, and the American people are patient. And that's why I've urged Congress to fund the U.S. military, and I hope Congress does fund the U.S. military to the fullest, because we've got a lot more fighting to do in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) U.S. should be focusing more on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and less on Iraq.

BUSH: Yes, well, I appreciate their advice. But we will not allow one of the world's most dangerous leaders to have the world's most dangerous weapons and hold the United States and our friends and allies hostage. That's just not going to happen.

And so, I appreciate their advice, but we will continue working with them. We'll continue dialoguing. I've told people that we're a deliberate nation; that we'll talk to our friends and allies. But what I said about the axis of evil is what I mean. And I can't be any more plain about it.

HEMMER: President Bush a short time ago speaking with reporters there in Missouri, three topics to cover. The first one, the church attack yesterday in Islamabad after a conversation with Pervez Musharraf. He says, quote, "when we find them we will bring them to justice."

Dick Cheney, he describes his visit to the Middle East as a very good visit, his words, with regard to Afghanistan. Much more ahead despite the fact that Operation Anaconda has been officially declared over by the Pentagon.

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