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Bush Discusses War on Terrorism in Nationally Broadcast Interview - 2001-12-06

President Bush said he will prevail in his war on terrorism, but he also stresses he is a man who wants peace. In his first nationally broadcast interview since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the President reflected on the events of the last three months.

President Bush talked about the future, the present, and the recent past during the lengthy interview with ABC television.

He said he is determined to find and punish those responsible for the September 11 attacks. He said he wants Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group, dead or alive. "We are closing down caves, we are getting more and more of the territories under control of our friends and allies, and therefore, we have a better chance of spotting him in person," he said. "We're tightening the noose on Osama bin Ladan."

The President said he wants to focus for now on phase one of the war on terrorism - the battle against al-Qaida and their Taleban supporters in Afghanistan. When asked about the next theater in the war, his response was guarded. "Well, what people need to know is, we're going to do our job in Afghanistan first," he said.

All the same, he acknowledged American troops might eventually go into action outside Afghan territory. "..and there may be need to use military troops elsewhere. . . But, let me caution you about this: we have a while to go in Afghanistan. And I just want the American people to know that we are keeping all options on the table," he said.

The interview, which appeared on ABC's "20/20" program, was taped Tuesday in the family quarters of the White House. Laura Bush joined in the question and answer session with her husband.

The President called her "a steady hand" in a time of crisis. "She's been very calm and reassuring," he said. "It's been really a joy to see Laura's true strengths...for America to see Laura's true strengths, the reason why I married her." For her part, the First Lady said those who once had doubts about her husband's abilities now think differently. In a rare private moment in a public forum, she also talked about the impact recent events have had on their 20-year-old twin daughters. "They're worried, I think. But they're also off away from us," she said. "They are not in Washington. They're living their own lives. And I actually just have a certain confidence. I have a confidence in our government. I'm very proud of my husband as president. I also know that things happen in life that we can't control certainly, and I just have a sense of peace."

The broadcast also featured a televised tour of the White House Christmas decorations. The first floor of the executive mansion is usually open to the public during the holiday season. But this year, it is closed.

Public tours of the White House were suspended on September 17. The President said on "20/20" that he wanted to resume them for the holidays, but was talked out of it for safety reasons. He said his security detail convinced him that innocent lives could be put at risk.

President Bush will, however, preside over the lighting of the national Christmas tree in a park behind the White House. That event will be open to the public, but security will be extremely tight.