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Bush Offers Help in "New Front"

President says Turkey is now a battleground for terrorists in light of bombings. He promises U.S. aid in hunting "Al Qaeda-type killers."

November 22, 2003|Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writer

SEDGEFIELD, England — President Bush on Friday declared Turkey a new front in the war on terrorism and offered America's help to its leader in a gesture that could foreshadow new U.S. efforts to target what the president called "Al Qaeda-type killers."

"I told him our prayers are with his people," Bush said of his telephone call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I told him that we will work with him to defeat terror, and that the terrorists have decided to use Turkey as a front."

Neither Bush nor a White House spokeswoman gave details about the extent of help offered by the president.

Bush spoke as he toured this northern England village with British Prime Minister Tony Blair just before returning to the United States after a three-day state visit. He arrived back at the White House on Friday night.

Speaking to reporters at two stops in Blair's rustic hometown, once a mining center, both the president and the prime minister again issued harsh denunciations of the bombings Thursday in Istanbul and reaffirmed their determination to "hunt these killers down," as Bush put it. The attacks on British targets killed more than 30 people, including the British consul-general.

With Blair at his side nodding in agreement, the president added: "We want to work with countries like Turkey to anticipate and to find [the] killers."

Bush made his comments on Turkey when a reporter asked whether that nation was "a new front" in the war on terrorism.

"It sure is," the president said. "Two major explosions. And Iraq is a front. Turkey is a front. Anywhere where the terrorists think they can strike is a front."

Blair, who is under fire at home for his support of the Iraq war, said the latest violence in Turkey provided an opportunity for Americans and Britons to "reflect and know that amongst the tragedy, the alliance between Great Britain [and] the United States of America is an alliance that is strong and enduring, of immense importance to our two countries."

The bombings, he added, "should make us all the more determined to do what we need to do to restore order and justice, to bring peace and freedom and democracy to people all over the world."

In response to a question later, Blair said the bilateral relationship was "an alliance of values. It's an alliance of common interests. It's an alliance of common convictions and beliefs."

Bush arrived in Britain on Tuesday evening and stayed in central London until Friday morning. His long-planned visit was all but overshadowed by the bombings in Turkey, as well as by a large antiwar protest Thursday that drew more than 100,000 demonstrators to the streets near Buckingham Palace, where Bush stayed. For security considerations, the president was kept virtually out of public sight while in London.

But in this charming country village, Bush seemed everywhere Friday: having tea with the Blairs at their home outside Sedgefield and then traveling to a pub in the village center for lunch with about 50 of Blair's constituents.

As the motorcade sped into the village, it passed a crowd of people. Some of them waved the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack in support of Bush and Blair, while others held up anti-Bush signs. Inside the Dun Cow Inn, handpicked guests applauded as the leaders entered.

The president and prime minister circulated, posing for snapshots and signing autographs. Bush also reached across the bar to shake hands with the bartenders; and as he worked his way down the bar, he came to several tap handles connected to beer kegs and playfully gripped one with his left hand, as if to draw a cold beer. The gesture prompted laughter throughout the pub: Bush was a well-known party man in his younger days but is now a teetotaler.

After lunch, the high-powered entourage went to nearby Sedgefield Community College and visited with student athletes, first on a soccer field and then inside a gymnasium. Emerging afterward, Bush was greeted by admiring boys and girls, and after some hesitation, he worked the line, shaking hands and dispensing hugs.

Speaking again to reporters, Bush said his contact with the children of Sedgefield reminded him anew of his "solemn responsibility to protect our people and to create the conditions necessary for peace to prevail when they become older."

"That's our biggest job," he added. "And yesterday's attack in Turkey reminded us that we hadn't completed our job yet."

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