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RESPONSE TO TERROR | UNITED NATIONS

Bush to Press World Leaders for Commitment

Diplomacy: In meetings at U.N. and with Putin, president intends to thank those who have joined terror war and prod those who haven't.

November 09, 2001|EDWIN CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — President Bush's transformation from a go-it-alone Texan into a coalition-building warrior will be on full display in the coming days as he addresses the U.N. General Assembly, huddles with a succession of world leaders and then returns to the White House to host Russian President Vladimir V. Putin early next week.

On Saturday, at the largest gathering of world leaders since the terrorist attacks on America, Bush will press hard for active cooperation and public support from members of the United Nations--an institution that, until Sept. 11, he had been inclined to ignore.

The president and his top aides said he intends to thank the allies who have backed the counter-terrorism campaign through deeds, such as logistical support. But he will demand action from the rest, such as providing intelligence data on suspected terrorists.

"The president considers this an opportunity to once again state the call to all civilized countries to responsibly deal with terrorism within their own borders," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.

Bush's diplomatic efforts at the U.N. come at a juncture in the war on terrorism, dogged by the absence of significant military progress and a lack of headway on the anthrax investigation. Global support seems on the wane for the air campaign in Afghanistan, and opposition among Arabs and Muslims is expected to grow if the bombing continues unabated during the approaching Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

As for Putin's visit, which will include a stop at Bush's ranch in Texas, the two presidents are expected to continue their search for room within the Antiballistic Missile Treaty to allow the U.S. to keep developing and testing a missile-defense system--even though Bush has made clear his desire to junk the treaty.

Rice cautioned against expecting a breakthrough agreement, saying, "I wouldn't expect any particular moment in which you tie it all up with a red ribbon."

Bush also plans to inform Putin that he has decided to significantly reduce the number of U.S. offensive nuclear missiles--the upshot of a "nuclear strategic review" that he had ordered.

The busy rounds of diplomacy Bush plans at the United Nations will be a notable turnaround for a president who initially established a reputation as a unilateralist on world affairs.

But Bush's approach changed after the terrorist attacks, as he sought and quickly received the Security Council's approval to take the war on terrorism to Afghanistan.

Dinner Planned With Pakistani Leader

After addressing the general assembly, Bush will have lunch with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. After meetings with other leaders, he is scheduled to dine Saturday night with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a vital ally in the anti-terrorism campaign.

On Sunday, the two-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Bush is scheduled to participate in an observance at the World Trade Center site.

In his appearance at the U.N., Bush faces competing demands that some analysts say may be irreconcilable.

He needs to continue to make the case for the war on terrorism, but he must do so without overselling it to the point of risking his credibility, said Ivo H. Daalder, a former national security analyst who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

"The president needs to reawaken people around the world and communicate to the world what it is that the United States is engaged in and why civilian casualties in Afghanistan is an inevitable part of the picture," Daalder said.

The United Nations' focus on terrorism won't end after Bush leaves its headquarters. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell plans to meet there Monday with the so-called "six-plus-two" group--consisting of the six nations bordering Afghanistan and the United States and Russia--to continue efforts to prepare a broad-based post-Taliban government.

The meeting will signal that the U.N. and special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are assuming the lead from the United States in coaxing Afghanistan's disparate factions to work together.

"This is something that the Afghans themselves are going to have to take on," Rice said. "And I think we are agnostic as to the form that takes."

Putin, who will attend the General Assembly gathering, and his wife are scheduled to arrive in Washington on Monday night. He will meet with Bush on Tuesday and the two are scheduled to hold a joint news conference that afternoon. After that, Putin is scheduled to meet with members of Congress and then deliver a speech at the Russian Embassy in Washington.

On Wednesday, he will speak at Rice University in Houston before going to Bush's ranch in Crawford, near Waco, where he and his wife, Ludmila, are to spend the night.

In her comments Thursday, Rice stressed that the relationship between Washington and Moscow is decidedly different from the one that existed during the Cold War.

"Not every meeting has to be accompanied--like the old summits were with the Soviet Union--by arms-control agreements and by a series of agreements, because this is now a normal relationship that's moving forward progressively" and on an agenda broader than arms control, Rice said.

On the personal side, Rice said the relationship between Bush and Putin "has gotten better and better" and that Putin's quick response in joining the counter-terrorism war "gave a kind of new impetus to the relationship."

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Times staff writer Robin Wright contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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