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Bush appeals for unflagging commitment in war on terrorism

Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush pressed the world's nations Monday to keep an unflagging commitment to the campaign against terrorism and ``take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale'' should nuclear weapons end up in the wrong hands.

Bush marked the six months since the Sept. 11 attacks at a solemn ceremony on the White House South Lawn. With flags of many world nations at his back, Bush said the global coalition must not weaken in the face of terrorists who are brazen enough to try, in any city in the world, more attacks like those launched on New York and Washington last fall.

``There can be no peace in the world where differences and grievances become an excuse to target the innocent for murder,'' Bush said. ``Against such an enemy, there is no immunity, and there can be no neutrality.''

He described Sept. 11 as not only a day of tragic, multiple hijackings, but a day when the world ``was stirred to anger and to action'' over terrorism. ``And the terrorists will remember Sept. 11 as the day their reckoning began,'' Bush said.

But that reckoning, Bush said, will be elusive if countries fail to act decisively to keep terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

``Every nation in our coalition must take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale, terror armed with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons,'' Bush said. ``America is now consulting with friends and allies about this greatest of dangers, and we're determined to confront it.''

Bush spoke to members of Congress, top administration officials and relatives of some 300 victims who were there to commemorate the day six months ago that New York's World Trade Center, and the Pentagon just outside Washington, were attacked. Also present were more than 100 ambassadors, some of whom publicly restated solidarity with Bush's fight against terrorism.

Jibril Aminu, Nigerian ambassador to the United States, told Bush, ``Even as you are doing what has to be done on the war front, ... it is reassuring that you are also sensitive to the need to move on, so the unpleasant past will not be allowed to oppress and retard the future.''

Sung Chul Yang, South Korean ambassador to the United States, recalled how the United States defended South Korea against communist aggression. Americans lost 33,746 of their sons and daughters in the Korean War, he said.

``As we then fought side by side and shoulder to shoulder, now the Korean people actively support the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism _ and will do so until it is eradicated. Terrorism is the scourge of mankind,'' Sung said.

U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have removed the Taliban government behind which terror networks hid to carry out their plots, and now have the upper hand in fierce fighting with holdout warriors in the hills of Afghanistan, Bush said.

But this is still just the start, Bush said. He made clear he will carry the fight into other, unspecified nations with the goal of denying terrorist networks any safe haven, ``no governments to hide behind, and not even a safe place to sleep.''

``This will require international cooperation on a number of fronts, diplomatic financial and military,'' Bush said. ``We will not send American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead.''

Bush also renewed his appeal for a global effort to contain the spread of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists, saying, ``Men with no respect for life must never be allowed to control the ultimate instruments of death.''

``For America, the war on terror is not just a policy, it's a pledge,'' Bush said. ``I will not relent in this struggle for the freedom and security of my country, and the civilized world.'' The president spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 people seated on folding chairs. Before the ceremony began, a band played the national anthems of coalition partners, and the Boys Choir of Harlem sang ``The Battle Hymn of the Republic.''

``In our war on terror, we'll be judged by its finish, not by its start,'' Bush said. ``More dangers and sacrifices lie ahead yet America is prepared.''

Instead of closing the 19-minute address with his standard, ``God bless America,'' Bush ended by saying: ``God bless our coalition.''

Elsewhere Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Christie Whitman, and emergency management chief Joe Allbaugh were marking the attacks in New York City.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was meeting with military leaders from the nations in the anti-terrorism coalition.

In London, Vice President Dick Cheney, starting a 10-day foreign tour, was joining British Prime Minister Tony Blair to commemorate the attack on the United States and remember the citizens of the many nations who were lost Sept. 11.
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