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Bush Meets With Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Aired October 15, 2001 - 12:11   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I can see that President Bush has been joined by the Italian prime minister. Why don't we take that live and hear whatever remarks they have.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I'm also pleased to be able to give him a lunch. After all, I've had one of the best lunches since I've been the president because of the prime minister.

We had a long discussion about our mutual desire to rout out terrorism where it might exist. He understands as well as I understand that the war on terrorism will be waged on many fronts. And I am so pleased with the efforts of his government to join with us in disrupting the financial networks of terrorist organizations.

I'm pleased that we're sharing intelligence. I'm pleased that the prime minister understands that Al Qaeda has cells all around the world, and he's more than willing to work with us to disrupt those cells, to bring people to justice. We're making progress, and one reason we're making progress is because we've got good, strong friends, such as the Italians and the Italian government.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. It's an honor to have you here.


BERLUSCONI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Mr. President. I am here, first of all, to express our great pain and sadness for the attack on September the 11th. And to say to you that if the same attack had occurred in an Italian city, we would have felt the same pain as you are. And also I'm here to express to you our desire to be as close as possible and to provide both moral and material support.

As I've mentioned earlier this morning, this attack was an attack, not only against citizens, but also against freedom and liberty.

BERLUSCONI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The U.S. is the defender of liberty all over the world and that's what this attack was about.

BUSH: We'll answer a couple of questions. QUESTION: Mr. President, are these Anthrax attacks, sir, do you believe that there is any connection to bin Laden's organization? Your vice president on Friday seemed to indicate that there may be some possible link.

BUSH: Well, there may be some possible link. We have no hard data yet, but it's clear that Mr. bin Laden is a man who's an evil man. He and his spokesmen are openly bragging about how they hope to inflict more pain on our country. So we're watching every piece of evidence. We're making sure that we're connecting any dots that we have, to find out who's doing this. And I wouldn't put it past him, but we don't have hard evidence yet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) anything that points towards bin Laden, besides your gut and has there been any other reports of Anthrax- tainted mail being received by U.S. businesses or government offices today?

BUSH: There has been today. I just talked to Leader Daschle and his office receive a letter, and it had Anthrax in it. The letter was field-tested, and the staffers that have been exposed are being treated. The powder that had been field tested is now obviously going to the CDC lab. And beyond that, I don't know more about it.

BUSH: I spoke to the leader. He is obviously concerned, as am I. The key thing for the American people is to be cautious about letters that come from somebody you may not know, unmarked letters, letters that look suspicious. And give those letters and packages to local law authorities.

Again, the process is working, but today, the Senate majority leader, his office did receive a letter.


BUSH: It shows it to be anthrax. There are more tests being conducted as we speak. The leader believes it is anthrax, but we'll find out more as time goes on. They've got the letter. As he said, it was a letter that had been wrapped a lot and that the powder was within the confines of the envelope. It wasn't on the outside of the envelope, it was in the envelope, and a staffer opened the letter. They obviously became suspicious of the material within the letter and immediately called in for a field test. The field test was done, shows it to be anthrax, and then all people are being treated.


QUESTION: India says it opened fire on Pakistani positions in the Kashmir region today -- this just an hour or two after Secretary Powell landed in Pakistan. How helpful is something like that?

BUSH: I haven't seen that report yet, and I think it is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during our activities in Afghanistan and, for that matter, forever.

BUSH: But I need to find out more about the report. I will find out more about the report.

As you noted, our secretary of state is in the region. One reason he's there is to talk to both sides about making sure that there is no -- if there are tensions -- and obviously there are -- that they be reduced. And that we are mindful that activities around Kashmir could create issues in that part of the region, particularly as we're conducting our operations in Afghanistan.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Mr. President, you have mentioned that you would like -- the other evening in your press conference -- that you would like to see more options from the allies, and you mentioned what the UK was doing. What would you say about what Italy has done? And what was the subject of your conversation? Would you like to see something more done by Italy? And also, from Europe, would you like to see more economic action from the European side to help the U.S. economy? Thank you.

BUSH: Thank you. Well, first of all, we're taking measures here at home to get our economy started. There is some optimism as some numbers recently have shown that consumer confidence is getting stronger, that people are beginning to get on the airways more, that people are traveling; and so, there are some positive signs.

I hope to work with -- I am working with Congress and hope to get a stimulus package that will dovetail nicely with the tax cuts that we have this summer coupled with some of the spending measures we've taken since September the 11th.

First of all, I'm very pleased with the cooperation and support of Italy. They have been very strong from the beginning. The prime minister has been very -- not only supportive, but has asked how to help in significant ways to fight terrorism.

Again, I repeat to you: This is a war that's going to be fought on a variety of fronts. One such front will be to disrupt the finances of the terrorist organizations.

BUSH: And he was discussing with me some executive orders that had been taken recently that showed Italy's desire to be very firm about disrupting finances. There is a sharing of information that goes on. I'm confident that if we put out the word that we needed more help from Italy, they would be more than willing to help. Each of us has a role to play, and the Italian government under this good man's leadership is playing a very significant role.

We're going to go eat lunch.

Thank you.

BROWN: The president meeting with the Italian prime minister. The principle news coming out of it though, is a letter received by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is now being checked for anthrax. A number of staffers are being tested -- apparently exposed to the powder inside. We gathered from the president's remarks, that at least the preliminary testing on the letter or on the powder indicates it is anthrax. The president said be cautious with mail. The process is working -- more tests are being conducted. So far, all of these anthrax incidents have been specifically directed at either media organizations and now, apparently, at -- at Senator Daschle. None are just being dropped in the mail, as of now. Doesn't mean you should be any less cautious. But it does provide some context.