WASHINGTON (AP) _ Brushing aside criticism, President Bush said Friday the worldwide coalition against terrorism has never been stronger and added, ``now is the time for action'' on military, diplomatic and other fronts.
Speaking at the White House, Bush said, ``We're achieving our military objectives'' in the war in Afghanistan.
Emerging from a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the president said the two men had discussed ``a post-Taliban Afghanistan that enables the country to survive and move forward and one that represents all the interests of the people'' of the country.
Questioned sharply by an Indian reporter who asked whether an American life was more precious than an Indian life _ a reference to so-called ``cross-border terrorism'' carried out by Pakistani supporters in the Kashmir region _ the president said, ``Terrorism is evil and all of us must work to reject evil.''
When the reporter persisted, Bush said, ``Excuse me ... our coalition is strong because leaders such as the prime minister fully understand that we must reject terrorism in all its forms and murder in all its causes in order for us to be peaceful.''
Bush spoke after Vajpayee and Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal criticized the administration in separate interviews published during the day. The Saudi faulted the president for failing to launch a new peace initiative in the Middle East, and the Indian leader said the White House had appeared initially unprepared for the type of war it was encountering in Afghanistan.
``Our coalition has never been stronger,'' Bush said. He added that he will tell the United Nations on Saturday that ``the time of sympathy is over. We appreciate the condolences'' for the loss suffered in the Sept. 11 attacks,
``Now is the time for action. Now is the time for coalition members to respond in their own way. And the prime minister of India understands and he is responding and the Saudi'' government is responding also, he said.
Standing in the White House, the Indian leader offered no public criticism of his host.
``We have to fight terrorism in all its forms. We have to win this battle against terrorism, there is no other option,'' he said.
Bush returned Thursday night to the White House, following a speech in Atlanta in which he called on Americans to defy acts of terror by strengthening their communities, comforting their neighbors and remaining vigilant in the face of further threats.