President Bush spoke to the nation in a radio address from Shanghai, calling the anthrax mailings in the United States “an act of terror.”
Mr. Bush the 20 other leaders at the APEC summit were discussing ways “to better protect all our citizens from a new threat, the threat of bioterrorism.”
Mr. Bush restated that there is no evidence linking the letters containing anthrax spores to Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaida organization, whom the president blames for the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We do not yet know who sent anthrax to the United States Capitol or several different media organizations,” Bush said.
“We do know that anyone who deliberately delivers anthrax is engaged in a crime and an act of terror.”
Bush praised health officials for responding quickly to the attacks, saying their work had “no doubt saved lives.”
So far eight people have been infected with the potential germ warfare agent and several dozen have been exposed. All but two of the eight have the less severe skin anthrax and are responding well to antibiotics. A Florida man died of inhalational anthrax two weeks ago, and another Florida man is infected, but is expected to make a full recovery.
Health experts say the fear of anthrax and the thousands of false alarms are stressing the emergency response and health care systems.
Bush is getting frequent updates on the anthrax situation from officials in Washington, including new homeland security chief Tom Ridge.
The APEC meeting has been overshadowed by the war on terrorism, but Bush said in his radio address that the leaders in Shanghai would “advance world trade.”
In a speech before the group, Mr. Bush made a stark contrast between the prosperity that freedom and global engagement brings, and the poverty and despair caused by isolation and extremist tyranny.
He said free trade could conquer despair and praised Pacific Rim countries for opening themselves up to the world, calling the result “one of the great development success stories of our time.”
An anti-terror declaration drafted for the APEC meeting strongly condemns last month’s attacks on the United States. The draft also does not specially mention bin Laden or the Taliban, but Bush says he is satisfied with the level of support he’s received from APEC leaders. The final version of the communique will be delivered Sunday.
“The nations meeting here in Shanghai understand what is at stake,” he said. “If we do not stand against terrorism now, every civilized nation will at some point be its target.”
APEC member nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.