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07 May 2003

White House: War on Terrorism Continues

(Calls Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan successes) (610)
By Alicia Langley
Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- The U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are
successes in the fight against worldwide terror, but the campaign
against the global threat continues, White House Press Secretary Ari
Fleischer told reporters May 7, reminding them that "just last week"
President Bush said "that the war on terrorism goes on."

Fleischer said the search by coalition forces for high-level officials
of the former Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq has been very successful.

"The Iraqi regime is no more. The threat is no more," he said, adding,
"there has already been, in a short period of time, tremendous success
in capturing these people or having them be turned in."

But he acknowledged that the administration still does not know if
Saddam Hussein himself is alive or not.

Vice President Cheney, in a speech May 6 in Dallas, Texas, said he
personally thinks the former dictator is dead.

An audiotape obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald in recent days is
the latest purportedly featuring the former Iraqi leader. Asked about
that tape, Fleischer said, "we don't know if the tape is genuine or
not. It's being studied."

Fleischer also told reporters that the administration feels confident
that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) hidden by Iraq will be found.

"We have always had confidence, we continue to have confidence, that
WMD will be found. He (Saddam Hussein) had a long period of time to
hide what he has in a variety of different places," Fleischer said.
"One of the reasons that we went to war was because of their
possession of weapons of mass destruction. And nothing has changed on
that front at all. We said what we said because we meant it. We had
the intelligence to report it. Secretary Powell said it."

Regarding reports that Iraq's weapons may have been dispersed or
carried across the border into neighboring countries, Fleischer said
"we don't have anything concrete to report on that." He said it is
also possible that weapons were dispersed "to various hiding places
throughout Iraq."

Regarding Afghanistan, Fleischer said, "In terms of the fight against
those who attacked our country on September 11th, the al Qaeda,
harbored by the Taliban, there is no question this has been a
successful mission.

"The abilities of al Qaeda have been severely diminished, and the
president is grateful for that happening. Obviously, Osama bin Laden
has not been captured. But as you look at all the operations, just ask
Khalid Sheik Mohammed how he feels about our ability to track people
down."

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the Al Qaeda operations chief, is the suspected
mastermind behind the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United
States. He was arrested March 1 in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities
with the assistance of U.S. intelligence agents. He is being held by
U.S. intelligence agents at an undisclosed location.

Fleischer said that President Bush has confidence that there will be
more al Qaeda arrests over time. "This is about more than one man, as
the president has repeatedly said," he recalled. "The mission against
al Qaeda continues."

Asked what will constitute victory in the war on terror, Fleischer
said that because of the nature of terrorism, the criteria used to
determine what constitutes victory will evolve.

"It's kind of like saying in the early or mid-1950s, what constitutes
victory in the Cold War?" he said. "I don't think anybody then could
have answered you that the victory will come when the Berlin Wall
falls and the Soviet Union falls, as well.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)