After a look at British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ultimatum to the Taliban, Margaret Warner talks with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou about NATO's coalition building efforts.
JIM LEHRER: Now, building the anti-terrorism coalition among NATO allies. Today NATO reaffirmed its Article 5 commitment: An attack on the U.S. was attack on all 19 NATO members; and Britain, a key member of the alliance, continued to take the lead. Here is part of what Prime Minister Tony Blair said today, before his labor party's annual meeting, about the struggle ahead.
TONY BLAIR: What happened on the 11th of September was without parallel in the bloody history of terrorism. Bin Laden and his people organized this atrocity; the Taliban aid and abet him. He will not desist from further acts of terror. They will not stop helping him. So what do we do? Don't overreact, some say. We aren't. We haven't lashed out. No missiles on the first night just for effect. Don't kill innocent people. We are not the ones who waged war on the innocent. We seek the guilty. Look for a diplomatic solution. But there is no diplomacy with bin Laden or the Taliban regime. State an ultimatum and get their response. We stated the ultimatum; they haven't responded. Understand the causes of terror. Yes, we should try, but let there be no moral ambiguity about this. Nothing could ever justify the events of September 11, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could. (Applause)
The action we take will be proportionate-- targeted-- we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties. But understand what we are dealing with. Listen to the calls of those passengers on the planes. Think of the children on them, told they were going to die. Think of the cruelty beyond our comprehension as amongst the screams and the anguish of the innocent, those hijackers drove at full throttle planes laden with fuel into buildings where tens of thousands worked. They have no moral inhibition on the slaughter of the innocent. If they could have murdered not 7,000, but 70,000, does anyone doubt they would have done so and rejoiced in it? So there is no compromise possible with such people, no meeting of minds, no point of understanding with such terror. Just a choice: Defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must. (Applause)
We do not act against Islam. The true followers of Islam are our brothers and sisters in this struggle. (Applause) Bin Laden is no more obedient to the proper teaching of "the Koran" than those crusaders of the 12th century who pillaged and murdered represented the teaching of the gospel. (Applause) This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us. By the strength of our common endeavor we achieve more together than we can alone. For those people who lost their lives on the 11th of September, and those that mourn them, now is the time for the strength to build that community. Let that be their memorial. (Applause)
JIM LEHRER: Now, the perspective of Greece, another NATO ally, and to Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: And we get that perspective from the foreign minister of Greece, George Papandreou. Minister Papandreou met today with National Security Adviser Condi Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. He joins us now. Welcome, Mr. Minister.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU, Foreign Minister, Greece: Nice to be with you.
MARGARET WARNER: After the United States today at NATO briefed all the NATO members on its evidence against bin Laden, is Greece as persuaded as Prime Minister Tony Blair is that, in fact, bin Laden and his people were behind this act?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Yes, we're persuaded because this is not simply a question of the evidence we are seeing today. We have received NATO and my permanent representative has accepted the evidence. I was talking to Colin Powell just a while ago and he has said, of course, that there will be even new evidence that will be produced, further evidence produced, as days go by. But I think it's very clear that I was in Moscow also, and they also see this very clearly that it is this organization and bin Laden who has made his purpose and he has stated this publicly, to defeat, as he calls, this civilization and our society. It is also sure that we have a number of organizations or, if you like, a network of organizations which he has created over the years which may have some autonomous or some independent activities but they are linked politically, ideologically with this organization. So we are talking about a major operation, which we have to deal with and we're not talking now about the... A court trial but we're talking about a political campaign against an organization that has committed itself to destroying our societies as we know them. So I would say that, yes, this information has been important and I think there will be more and more information, which will convince us even further of the specific links that exist.
MARGARET WARNER: Does Greece also support what Prime Minister Blair made pretty clear today and the Bush administration officials have also that if the Taliban does not surrender bin Laden, military action is coming?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Well, we have all been, I think, very strongly committed to not only condemn this terrorist act and not only show our solidarity with the United States but saying this is our problem. This is not just an American problem. This is a problem for a globalized world, and our democratic values and our democratic societies must be protected. Now how we protect them, yes, one of the actions can or should be, if you like, military. It's not the only action. It will be targeted I think both Tony Blair but Colin Powell, when I talked to him, and has been very clear, we're targeting the terrorists. We're not targeting Afghanistan; we're not targeting the Afghan people. We're not targeting Islam. As a matter of fact, we see the Arab societies and the Islamic societies as part of this wider coalition. They are with us. We want them with us in creating this principled world society, if you like. But it has to be based on values of co-existence, of multiculturalism, of accepting basic rules of the game and cannot be based on terror and blind terror, terror as we have seen from bin Laden so I would say that, yes, this is a very strong commitment and this is a message, a strong message that they are responsible. Their government, the Afghan government, is responsible. They cannot hide behind any veneer to say that they are not responsible and that they will not cooperate with the international community to hand over bin Laden.
MARGARET WARNER: But now Greek public opinion doesn't seem to be with you. There's a poll came out yesterday that something like 85% of all Greeks oppose U.S.-led military strikes and three-quarters don't want Greece to participate at all. One, how do you explain that? And two, will it inhibit Greece at all in the degree to which it supports military action?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: I disagree with the interpretation of the polls. If you ask an average Greek, we have been living in the region, in a region where we have had many wars in the previous century -- just recently in the Balkans, many other wars. So there is an apprehension about a war, a major war. But we're not talking about a war -- or at least not a traditional one. We're talking about a campaign with political means, with economic means, with diplomatic means. Yes, there will be obviously police and military means also that have to be used. So, of course, when you ask, do you want a war, people will say no we don't want a war. I think this is a more general response and a gut reaction very is very logical and natural. But the people of Greece are very much committed in uprooting terrorism, fighting terrorism. We are living in a region, which has had problems of terrorism also. The neighborhood we live in has had terrorism recently, terrorist acts recently and we have condemned them very strongly. So it is very much in our interest to move ahead and see, work with international community as we've doing, with the United States, and we've worked with the United States and are working, giving the base for the U.S. Air Force to refuel, to move on to other parts of the world. We will continue to cooperate with the United States in other areas of intelligence gathering and money laundering to fight this terrorist activity. So I would say that let's see how, you know it's easy to interpret polls. The Greek sentiment and the Greek popular opinion is fight terrorism, certainly do it in a smart way and I think this is what the international community is doing and I think the U.S.-- and this is my impression in my meetings here today-- there is a smart, systematic, thoughtful campaign, which is going to be looking to be effective and I think this is what the average American is looking for also, not just strike out as Tony Blair said just as a reaction but when the action takes place, it is effective. I think this is what everybody wants to see.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. And a big part of that campaign, as you know, is going after the financing of terrorists. The U.S. released a list of 27 terrorists groups and individuals last week, asked all countries in the world to freeze any assets and to order their banks to freeze assets. When the Treasury Department released the list yesterday of the countries that have agreed to do so, some 20, Greece wasn't on the list. Can you tell us why?
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Greece has agreed to do so. We have set up a committee only recently, a special committee, which is looking into our banks to see if we have any accounts that may be of any dubious nature. We just set this up only a few days ago. We are working within also the European Union together to fight any type of money laundering. So we'll be very, very active in this area. What had happened, of course, is only a few days ago we did not have a final list. There were a different number of lists. That may have made... created some confusion initially but now the list has consolidated. We know the specific targets, who these organizations and possible accounts are. So we will be fully cooperative and it's in our interest.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Mr. Minister, thank you for being with us.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU: Thank you very much.