WASHINGTON – Calling it a "strike on the financial foundation" of terrorists, President Bush signed an executive order Monday freezing the assets of 27 individuals and organizations.
"They include terrorist organizations, individuals, terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism and several nonprofit organizations," the president said in a Rose Garden appearance.
Bush was flanked by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill as he spoke. He made his appearance as the nation struggled with its recovery from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 6,000 at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. There was some sign of optimism during the day — the stock market opened sharply higher after a week of steep declines.
Bush said he signed the order one minute after midnight, adding, "This list is just the beginning."
"To follow the money is a trail to terrorists," the president said. He called the list "the financial equivalent of law enforcement's most-wanted list."
Bush spoke as halfway around the world, the leader of Afghanistan's ruling militia, Mullah Mohammed Omar said the United States should withdraw from the Persian Gulf and "put an end to the biased attitude on the issue of Palestine."
In a faxed statement, he said the death of Usama bin Laden — the suspected mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks — would do little to remove any threat to the United States.
The president's executive order marked the first public step of the financial elements of his declared war on terrorism. He was working on the diplomatic front during the day, meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the White House.
At the same time, American military forces are deploying around the world in anticipation of an expected strike against bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.
Bush spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for nearly an hour over the weekend — their third conversation on the anti-terror campaign — and will see Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday.
As he laid the groundwork for a military strike, the president also sought to help restore a sense of normalcy to the nation. He looked on Sunday as Marines raised the American flag at his Camp David, Md., retreat to full-staff for the first time since the attacks.
Outside Washington, Americans resumed their routines.
Professional football games were played for the first time since Sept. 10.
One famous stadium was transformed into a field of healing. Representatives of New York's broad spectrum of faiths took the field of Yankee Stadium for a flag-draped gathering of prayer for the victims of terrorism. "We need faith, wisdom and strength of soul," said New York's Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan.
A key area of concern in Washington was the economy, bruised in the aftermath of the attacks. Bush was contemplating a broad array of methods to jump-start it, but heeding the advice of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who urged against an immediate government stimulus package.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., disagreed. "I think we have to have a stimulus package immediately that accelerates certain kinds of investment projects, whether it's railroad, road, airports, even something as prosaic as a sewer overflow, for mayors all across the country," he said on CBS' Face the Nation.
Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., urged consumers to do their bit by opening their wallets. "People, if you want to do an act of patriotism, if you were going to buy a car, go out and buy that car," he said on CBS. "If you were going to do some trip, go do that trip."
As Bush signed a bill delivering $15 billion in federal aid to the nation's ailing airlines, alarming news surfaced of possible new terrorist attacks from the skies. Concerned about possible chemical weapons attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a two-day ban Sunday and Monday on crop-dusting from airplanes in domestic airspace.
Investigators continued their wide-ranging work. In a Dallas suburb, the FBI arrested a Palestinian whose name turned up in the address book of a former personal secretary to bin Laden. Ghassan Dahduli is appealing an immigration court deportation ruling for obtaining a work visa through fraud, FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey said.
In Austin, Texas, authorities pulled from an American Airlines flight two men whose names matched those on an FBI list of people wanted for questioning. The two men, identified as Pakistani nationals, were released early Monday, said Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokeswoman Jackie Mayo.
The Bush administration promised to offer evidence of bin Laden's role in the attacks. "I think we will put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case that there will be no doubt when that case is presented that it is al-Qaida, led by Usama bin Laden, who has been responsible," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
"What we want to do is to make sure that his activities are stopped and that he is stopped," Powell said on ABC's This Week. "One way or the other."