President Bush met with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo at the White House Tuesday. The leaders pledged to work together to fight terrorism wherever it exists.
These talks focused on what the United States can do to help President Arroyo fight Muslim extremists in the Abu Sayyaf group tied to a series of killings, kidnappings, and bombings in the southern Philippines.
President Bush says the international coalition against terrorism goes beyond the al-Qaida group of Osama bin Laden who is the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush says the coalition is determined to fight terrorism wherever it exists. "The front against terror is not just in Afghanistan," he said.
"We are going to fight terror wherever it exists, and we will work with our allies and friends to use whatever resources we have to win the war against terror. President Arroyo understands now is the time to make a stand against terrorist activity whether it be in Afghanistan or in the Philippines or anywhere else al-Qaida exists. Because if we do not make a stand now, our children and grandchildren will not be able to grow up in a free world."
President Bush says he and President Arroyo are sharing intelligence and planning strategies to defeat terrorism. President Arroyo has been a strong supporter of U.S. military action in Afghanistan, offering troops and the use of Philippine airspace if approved by the Philippine Congress.
She would not say whether she is asking for U.S. troops to help fight terrorists in the Philippines. President Arroyo did say the two countries are continuing to work together under an existing mutual defense treaty which includes military and diplomatic assistance. "We have a framework on how to fight the Abu Sayyaf, how to fight terrorism in the southwestern part of the Philippines," she said.
"And the framework covers what we need in terms of diplomatic assistance, technical assistance, assistance in winning hearts and minds, and military assistance. We have advisors from the U.S. We have equipment from the U.S. All of these are part of our mutual defense treaty. It just so happens that now the mutual defense treaty facilities are being used in the fight against terrorism."
President Bush said he is willing to work with President Arroyo in any way she wants. She met earlier Tuesday with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said Washington is happy to provide the kinds of assistance President Arroyo believes is appropriate.