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26 September 2001

Bush Meets with American Sikh, Muslim Leaders

(Urges Americans to be tolerant in wake of September 11 attacks) (890)
By Wendy S. Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent
Washington -- President Bush held separate meetings at the White House
September 26 with American Sikh and Muslim leaders as a reminder to
the American people to avoid prejudice and intolerance in the wake of
the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
"It's my honor to welcome citizens from all across our country here to
the Roosevelt Room and the White House to discuss our common
commitment to make sure that every American is treated with respect
and dignity ... particularly during this time," Bush told the American
Sikh leaders.
"We're all Americans, bound together by common ideas and common
values," he said.
Bush noted the death of Balbir Singh Sodhi, an Indian store owner
killed in Arizona shortly after the terrorist attacks because, police
say, he wore a turban in keeping with his Sikh faith. The President
said his administration would seek justice in Sodhi's case.
"These citizens bring their hearts with them, and I can assure them
that our government will do everything we can ... to treat every human
life as dear, and respect the values that made our country so
different and so unique," Bush said.
The American Sikh community, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
said, "has been beset with occasional violence and [the meeting with
American Sikh leaders] it's another reminder about the need for
Americans to honor our constitutional principles in respecting all
Americans and all visitors to our country throughout this time."
In his meeting with a group from the American Muslim community, Bush
said he was honored to welcome to the White House "my fellow
Americans, Arab Americans, Americans who are Muslim by faith, to
discuss ... what our country is going to do to make sure that
everybody who is an American is respected."
He contrasted the teachings of Islam which he said are "of peace and
good," with the al Qaeda organization which he said is "an
organization based upon hate and evil."
He said that the outpouring of support for the United States following
the September 11 terrorist attack "has come from all corners of the
country, including many members of the Muslim faith. And for that I am
The American Muslim community "has been very supportive and
cooperative with all efforts to win the war on terrorism, and the
President is very appreciative of that," Fleischer said.
Bush started his day with phone calls to Netherlands Prime Minister
Wim Kok and Kasakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Bush and Kok "expressed their agreement about the need for full
solidarity, and the Prime Minister said that the Dutch government
would be with the people of the United States and stressed that
solidarity means deeds, not just words," Fleischer said.
Bush and Nazarbayev discussed cooperation in the common fight against
terrorism, and President Nazarbayev reiterated that Kazakhstan will
support the U.S.-led effort "with all available means," Fleischer
Also during the day, Bush visited the headquarters of the Central
Intelligence Agency in suburban Langley, Virginia, where he was
briefed on the agency's work and took a tour of the building, and
spoke to the employees.
He thanked them for their work and praised CIA Director George Tenet.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him, and I've got a lot of confidence
in the CIA," Bush said. "And so should America. It's important for
America to realize there are men and women spending hours on the task
and making sure our country remains free."
In the late afternoon September 26, Bush met in the Oval Office with
Egypt's Ahmed Maher. Maher had met earlier in the day at the State
Department with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In other developments, White House Press Secretary Fleischer, at his
afternoon briefing, referred to what he called "a very important
speech" given recently by Russia's President Vladimir Putin in which
he offered concrete cooperation in the common fight against
international terrorism.
President Bush "noted and wants to thank President Putin for his offer
to provide, as President Putin described it, permission for
humanitarian overflights, information about the situation on the
ground, as well as search and rescue operations, if necessary. The
President looks forward to continuing to work with the Russia
government together as we build this international coalition,"
Fleischer said.
Bush, the Press Secretary added, "also wants to note particularly
President Putin's remarks about the situation in Chechnya in which
President Putin called on Chechen insurgents to disassociate
themselves immediately from the international terrorist networks, and
meet for discussions to resolve the crisis in Chechnya."
"There is an international terrorist presence in Chechnya that has
links to Osama bin Laden," Fleischer said. "That's been long been
known," he said, noting that it's been mentioned in the Patterns of
Global Terrorism Report, issued by the State Department.
Fleischer said it was "an encouraging sign," that Chechen leader
Maskhadov has responded to Putin's request, and has "indicated a
commitment to the peace process. He has indicated a willingness, and
so it's important now to let events develop in Chechnya."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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