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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
France backs US on terrorism
Jacques Chirac and George Bush
Mr Chirac questioned use of the word 'war'
French President Jacques Chirac has expressed solidarity with the United States over the attacks on New York and Washington a week ago.

Speaking in the Oval Office as he began a meeting with US President George W Bush, Mr Chirac said that his country was determined to support the US campaign against what he called the absolute evil of terrorism.

We are naturally prepared to work in complete solidarity with the United States to reach this target, which is the elimination of terrorism

French President Jacques Chirac
But he disputed whether the word "war" should be used to describe the campaign and only committed France to discussing the means to be deployed against terrorists.

BBC Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds says that although the visit was planned some time ago, it is timely in helping Mr Bush to build a global coalition.

Mr Chirac is the first of a stream of foreign visitors visiting Washington over the next few days.

They include the president of Indonesia, the foreign ministers of Russia, China and Germany, and, on Thursday, the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia
King Fahd has pledged full support
As the Bush administration continues to gather support for its fight against terrorism Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of dissident Osama Bin Laden, has offered America full its co-operation.

An estimated 5,000 US troops and several squadrons of western war planes are already based in Saudi Arabia and they could form an integral part of any coming military action.

But correspondents say King Fahd's decision to offer the US full co-operation is likely to cause deep resentment amongst some of his people.

Chinese acceptance

China has also for the first time given an indication of the circumstances under which it would accept a US military strike.

UN Security Council
China is demanding UN approval

First, Beijing wants to see what it calls concrete evidence against the extremist organisations being targeted and it says any attacks should have a clear objective and should not hurt innocent people.

Most importantly, China says it can only support military action approved by the United Nations - a clear call to the US to seek the approval of the UN Security Council, on which China is a permanent member with veto power.

Varying support

There is likely to be more intense diplomatic activity over the next few days, as the US administration tries to rally support for what it calls its war on terrorism.

And while all of the leaders visiting the US are likely to express deep sympathy for what has happened, the level of support they offer America will vary greatly.

Even America's closest allies, like Britain, will want hard evidence linking Osama Bin Laden with last week's attacks.

But although the Bush administration is keen to get international support, it has made it clear that it reserves the right to act unilaterally if necessary.

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"Questions might remain about whether France will follow elegant language with rough deeds"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur reports from Washington
"At airbases across the US reservists have reported for duty"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati flies to meet Bush
18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair embarks on diplomatic offensive
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US attack evidence
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