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The War on Terrorism Begins - 2001-09-25

President Bush waged the war on terrorism on two fronts Monday - financial and diplomatic. Mr. Bush took action to cut off the flow of money to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization. The President also kept up his efforts to build an international coalition.

The President says money is the lifeblood of terrorism and it is time for the world to stop payment. "Today," he said, "we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network."

With the stroke of a pen, Mr. Bush froze the U.S. assets of 27 entities and banned business dealings with them. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida top the list. the president said, "They include terrorist organizations, individual terrorist leaders, a corporation that serves as a front for terrorism, and several non-profit organizations."

The groups cited by the President are based in a number of countries, including Egypt, Algeria, Somalia and the Philippines.

Mr. Bush acknowledges their financial dealings in the United States are limited. And so he is issuing an ultimatum to foreign banks: do business with the terrorists or do business with the United States. "If they fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts," he said, "the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their bank's assets and transactions in the United States."

White House officials predict the Treasury Department will use that authority very carefully. They say in some countries changes in law may be needed to meet the U.S. demands.

Mr. Bush made the announcement in the White House Rose Garden accompanied by Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell. On Sunday, Secretary Powell said the United States would soon turn over evidence to its allies linking Osama bin Laden to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. President Bush stressed no information will be made public that could jeopardize either the investigation or his anti-terrorism campaign. "We will not make the war more difficult to win by publicly disclosing classified information," he said.

After the Rose Garden ceremony, Mr. Bush conferred with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The meeting focused largely on border security and ended with a pledge of cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Prime Minister Chretien is the first of several world leaders to visit the White House this week. The Prime Ministers of Japan and Belgium are coming on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. And on Friday, President Bush will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah, the first Arab head of state to visit the White House since the terrorist attacks.