WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday appeared at a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony to urge the U.S.-led coalition’s uncompromising commitment to the war on terrorism, as he warned nations the failure to act together could result in global disaster.
"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 before a group at the White House that included ambassadors from more than 100 nations, several of whom spoke in support of the anti-terrorism effort. Behind him on the stage were flags from 179 nations, placed there to represent the coalition.
Also joining congressional members, Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, military officers and the diplomats were relatives of 300 people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and aboard the airliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field on its way to an unknown target.
In somber tones, the president named several allies who have helped in the war in Afghanistan, including France, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Germany.
"In total, 17 nations have forces deployed in the region and we could not have done our work without critical support from countries, particularly like Pakistan and Uzbekistan," Bush said. "Japanese destroyers are refueling coalition ships in the Indian Ocean. The Turkish air force has refueled American planes. Afghans are receiving treatment in hospitals built by Russians, Jordanians, and the Spanish and have received supplies and help from South Korea," he said.
The president also mourned the loss of soldiers from Denmark, Germany, Afghanistan, Australia, and America.
Bush outlined the accomplishments so far in the war against terrorism — the liberation of Afghanistan, the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda and the challenges ahead.
Naming governments where U.S. troops have been asked to assist, Bush said terrorists with links to Al Qaeda are backing a militant group in southern Philippines. He said Al Qaeda operates in the Pankisi Gorge near the Republic of Georgia's Russian border. In Yemen, Al Qaeda recruits come from near the Yemen-Saudi Arabian border. Bush said the United States would try to avoid making it the next Afghanistan.
He cautioned: "We will not send the American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead. This mission will end when the work is finished, when terror networks of global reach have been defeated."
Without specifically mentioning Iraq, Bush said the coalition must act to prevent states that seek to possess weapons of mass destruction.
"Men with no respect for life must never be allowed to control the ultimate instruments of death."
White House counselor Karen Hughes said the president's words are not directed at one nation or man in particular, but instead turn toward the network of global terrorism and the effort to prevent a "nightmare scenario" of terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Vice President Cheney, in London Monday at the start of a 10-day trip focused mainly on the Persian Gulf and Mideast, observed the six-month mark with British Prime Minister Tony Blair before taking Bush's case to nearly a dozen countries in the Arab world.
Blair told reporters that there is no doubt Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has acquired weapons of mass destruction, has used chemical weapons against his own people, and has breached at least nine U.N. Security Council resolutions about weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney added that searches of caves in Afghanistan revealed that Al Qaeda terrorists were seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction, suggesting they would look for weapons from someone of like mind willing to provide them with such weapons.
"We know they clearly, given their past track record, would use such weapons were they able to acquire them, and we have to be concerned about the potential marriage, if you will, between a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda and those who hold or are proliferating knowledge about weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said.
Hughes said the president has not decided what to do about Saddam, regarded by some as the best next target, but said doing nothing was not an option.
"The vice president obviously will be listening to leaders in the [Mideast] as he travels there over the next 10 days," Hughes said. "But one thing is clear and that is [that] we must send a clear message to Saddam Hussein. Inaction is not acceptable."
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with military leaders from 29 nations in the anti-terrorism coalition and led a tour of Pentagon reconstruction.
— Fox News' Wendell Goler contributed to this report.