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Elder Bush Busy Behind The Scenes

by Thomas M. DeFrank, New York Daily News, 19 September 2001


Like his father a decade before, President Bush is mobilizing a worldwide coalition to help him roll back aggression -- and his dad has been drafted as a key stealth operative in the diplomatic campaign.

Former President George Bush is heavily involved in persuading his legion of pals around the globe to climb aboard the U.S. anti-terror effort, sources told the Daily News yesterday.

"The old man is engaged well beyond what's been publicly reported -- or ever will be," one well-placed source said. Another Bush source, asked what the former President was up to, said only: "He's busy."

The elder Bush is a former ambassador to China, ambassador to the United Nations and vice president as well as ex-President. His international Rolodex is massive, and he has been tapping into his huge network of presidents, prime ministers and potentates to help with his son's war effort.

It's likely that he has been in touch with Chinese friends to make sure that Beijing, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, supports the diplomatic effort.

One of the elder Bush's closest friends, moreover, is King Juan Carlos of Spain -- and the Spanish government has already been approached to help seal off escape routes through Basque separatist areas into France frequently used by Osama Bin Laden's agents. One official said it's all but certain that the former President has been in touch with the king to press the point.

President Bush met last night with French President Jacques Chirac and won a commitment to help fight terrorism. Chirac called the hijacking attacks a "tragedy which does not have a parallel."

"We bring you the total solidarity of France and the French people," Chirac told Bush in an Oval Office meeting.

However, the French president declined to join Bush in calling their efforts a "war."

"I don't know whether we should use the word `war,' but what I can say is now we are faced with a conflict of a completely new nature," Chirac said.

President Bush also was expected to broach the touchy subject of what U.S. officials say is a "look-the-other-way" French policy toward terrorists.

"We want him to stop giving haven to these people," one Bush source bluntly said.

Today, Bush meets with the president of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, and with the foreign ministers of Russia and Germany.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives tomorrowfor more terror talks. Later this week, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage flies to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush and Putin have already spoken by phone twice. Moscow's diplomatic clout in the Arab world and the intelligence gleaned from its bitter experience fighting Afghan rebels in the 1980s are considered invaluable by Washington.

Secretary of State Powell is spearheading the diplomatic push. Powell has spoken to 62 of his foreign ministry counterparts and several heads of state since the World Trade Center disaster. His diplomacy has already yielded one major coup: Pakistan's "full cooperation" with U.S. military plans for going after Bin Laden's lairs in neighboring Afghanistan.

Powell says he's "fully satisfied" with the response he's getting -- but intends to keep the pressure on countries that U.S. diplomats believe are still sitting on their hands.

"I really don't have a list of fall-shorts," Powell said on Monday. "Some have been able to do more than others."

Copyright © 2001 New York Daily News
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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