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Aid, allies now falling into place

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 5, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush committed $320-million in humanitarian aid to the "poor souls" of Afghanistan on Thursday as he and allies from Mexico to Qatar moved ahead with plans against terrorists sheltered by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.

"In our anger, we must never forget we're a compassionate people," the president said.

Hundreds of foreign service personnel, integral to Bush's effort to build an international coalition against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, cheered Bush's speech at the State Department.

Fear of a U.S.-led military strike on the Taliban has chased thousands of destitute Afghan civilians into neighboring Pakistan. As many as 1.5-million Afghans could seek food and refuge in bordering countries in the coming months, the United Nations estimates.

The new relief money, which includes $25-million in emergency aid that Bush authorized over the weekend, will go to the United Nations, the Red Cross and other groups providing food and medicine to Afghans and refugees.

"We will fight evil, but in order to overcome evil, the great goodness of America must come forth and shine forth. And one way to do so is to help the poor souls in Afghanistan," Bush said.

At the White House, Mexican President Vicente Fox pledged his country's "commitment all the way."

For Bush, the statement appeared to resolve recent mixed messages from the Mexican government on the extent of its support as the United States goes after the al-Qaida terrorist network and Osama bin Laden.

"We're applying diplomatic pressure from around the world," Bush told Labor Department employees during an afternoon visit. "I promise you this: I will enforce the doctrine that says if you house the terrorists, you're just as guilty as the terrorists themselves."

Bush met in the Oval Office with Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Arab ruler of Qatar, an oil-rich Persian Gulf emirate that has pledged "to stand by the United States."

Earlier Thursday, Bush telephoned the emir of Bahrain and Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. The president lunched with congressional leaders working on legislative responses to terrorism, and then called Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Today, Bush meets with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. He sat down with Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., on Thursday, outlining the difficulties the Soviet Union had when they sent troops to Afghanistan, with thousands of soldiers killed, Lott said.

Meanwhile, the State Department's director for policy planning, Richard Haass, met in Rome with Afghanistan's deposed king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, as part of continuing U.S. contacts with Afghan exiles. Zahir, 86, was deposed in 1973.

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