President says country `still in danger' from future terrorist attacks

Friday, October 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush said Friday the nation ``is still in danger'' from future attacks by terrorists, but vowed that ``they will not take this country down.'' The administration stepped up efforts to choke off funds that nurture Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.

Speaking at the White House, Bush noted a fourth case of anthrax exposure, this one in New York City. ``It's got to cause concern for our country,'' Bush said, adding that the government has dispatched law enforcement and health experts.

``I want everybody in the country to know we're responding rapidly,'' he said.

Just over one month after attacks killed thousands in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Bush emphatically urged Americans to return to everyday activities.

``We cannot let the terrorists lock our country down. We can't let terrorists, a few evildoers, hold us hostage,'' he said.

The nation remained on high alert, following what Bush said Thursday night was a ``general threat'' of possible additional terrorist strikes in the next several days. Congress labored over legislation to expand the power of law enforcement authorities trying to combat terrorism. Work on a companion measure to strengthen airline security appeared stuck.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced the Bush administration's latest move to cut off financing. ``We are determined to deny terrorists the resources to carry out their acts of evil,'' he said.

The new list includes all 22 men on the FBI's newly compiled list of most wanted terrorists, as well as businesses and organizations funneling money to al-Qaida.

On the morning after a prime-time presidential news conference, senior White House officials said Bush harbored no illusions that the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan will turn over bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush had offered the Taliban a second chance on Thursday night, suggesting he would halt the aerial assault if they handed over bin Laden.

Bush spoke twice in public Friday, both times working to reassure a shaken nation.

Speaking before the March of Dimes conference, the president said the terrorists responsible for the attacks ``hoped our nation would come apart. ... But instead we've come together.''

He added, ``The terrorists did not intend this unity and resolve but they are powerless to stop them.''

A few hours later, he noted that an NBC network employee in New York had been exposed to anthrax, in addition to three people in Florida exposed to a different variety of the disease.

``First of all, the person is feeling fine. She's doing well. She obviously didn't ingest enough to cause death, thank God,'' Bush said.

``Our nation is still in danger but the government is doing everything in our power to protect our citizenry.''

Bush, at the White House news conference, hoped that extending an olive branch would convince skeptical nations, particularly in the Arab world, that the United States was being fair and patient, senior aides said.

``If you cough him up, and his people today ... we'll reconsider what we're doing to your country,'' Bush said. ``You still have a second chance. Bring him in. And bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him.''

He said ``it might take a year or two'' to unravel the terrorist network but asserted that the bombardment in Afghanistan, which began Sunday, had put bin Laden's network on the run.

The president said he did not know whether bin Laden was dead or alive, but it mattered little: ``I want him brought to justice.''

The president looked beyond his war with the Taliban and suggested that the United Nations help rebuild the Central Asian country. He urged patience, telling Americans he was ``slowly, but surely'' tightening the noose around al-Qaida.

The president said a new FBI warning was the result of a ``general threat'' of possible future terrorist acts the government had received. ``I hope it's the last, but given the attitude of the evildoers it may not be,'' he said.

The possible threats ranged from diplomatic sites overseas to possible truck bombs in the United States, a U.S. intelligence official said later, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At the same time, Bush sought to reassure Americans the government was doing all it could to make them safe. The president said he would not hesitate to close buildings or facilities if there was credible evidence of an attack, and he urged Americans to report anything suspicious to law enforcement authorities.