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Bush Dispatches Rumsfeld to Mideast - 2001-10-03

President Bush says he has sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the Middle East and Central Asia to meet with allies and share information about suspected terrorists. The administration is building an international coalition against terrorism in response to last month's attacks in New York and Washington.

President Bush says he has sent his defense chief on a trip to Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan to help reinforce the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bush says Secretary Rumsfeld will share information about suspected terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks.

The president says Afghanistan is harboring the prime suspect in that violence: Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden. Afghan Taleban leaders say they will not hand over Mr. bin Laden without proof that he was involved in those attacks.

The Bush Administration has ruled out any negotiations with the Taleban, but it is sharing some of that evidence with allies, especially Arab states that want to make sure this war on terrorism is not seen as a broader war against Islam.

Mr. Bush says Secretary Rumsfeld will meet with regional leaders to reinforce America's determination to bring those responsible to justice.

"People need to be able to look us in the eye and know that when we say that we are in this for the long run, that we are going to find terrorists and bring them to justice, we mean it," stressed Mr. Bush. "It's hard for people around the world to understand the resolve of America. They may hear my speech occasionally. But they need to look in the eyes of members of my administration, and hear them say that not only is this president resolved, but America is resolved to rout out terrorism, to make sure that legitimate governments can survive as we head into the 21st century and to make a strong stand for freedom," the president said.

Mr. Rumsfeld will meet for the first time with leaders in Uzbekistan which could be a key staging area for anti-terrorist operations across the border into Afghanistan. Pentagon officials say about 30,000 U.S. troops have already been deployed to the Gulf region along with about 350 military aircraft and two aircraft carrier battle groups.