Bush Briefs Congressional Leaders on Terror War

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President Bush briefed congressional leaders Tuesday on U.S. plans for a long, open-ended hunt for terrorists.

Bush met with Republican and Democratic leaders over breakfast at the White House. "I think the war aims are clear," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. "In a way, it's meeting guerrilla warfare with guerrilla warfare, but it's also meeting it with financial efforts, and political efforts, and diplomatic efforts. There's no one place that you can get this done."

At the White House, Gephardt said Bush was taking the right approach in targeting terrorist cells rather than civilians. He said that removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan is not necessarily a goal.

"I don't think it's anybody's goal to topple governments in this," Gephardt said. He added that the fact that the Taliban is supportive of bin Laden "gives us real pause, and obviously we'd like to change that position on their part."

Also in the meeting were House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

The leaders also discussed airport security measures, including Gephardt's idea of putting military police or reservists on planes "so that every passenger has a feeling of confidence to go back on the airplanes."

Gephardt said Reagan National Airport outside Washington, the only airport still closed due to the Sept. 11 attacks, could reopen once planes using the airport are equipped with better cockpit doors.

Bush indicated he was more than willing to consider Democratic proposals to extend unemployment and health insurance benefits to airline workers, Gephardt said. "There are some people who don't qualify for unemployment because of their status," he said.

Monday, in a letter to Congress, Bush broadly outlined how forces already have been deployed in the Middle East and Asian and Pacific regions.

"It is not now possible to predict the scope and duration of these deployments, and the actions necessary to counter the terrorist threat to the United States," Bush wrote.

The president was meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Tuesday to discuss that country's role in the looming conflict.

A CBS-New York Times poll found that Bush's handling of the terrorist crisis was supported by 90 percent of those surveyed, and 92 percent expressed backing for U.S. military action in response. The survey questioned 1,216 individuals between Sept. 20-23 and had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.