White House officials said Bush had decided to support an economic stimulus package with possible tax cuts for people and businesses. These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president also had decided to back an extension of unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, though far less than the 52 additional weeks that congressional Democrats want.
The military and economic developments unfolded as New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said it could take as long as a year to clean up the site of the World Trade Center.
Seventeen days after the deadliest terrorist attacks ever on American soil, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said Reagan National Airport would "definitely reopen." The airport, just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Va., sits in the shadow of the Pentagon; the White House and Capitol are seconds away by air, and authorities have kept it shut because of security concerns.
Bush, in remarks to reporters, said, "Make no mistake about it, we're in hot pursuit of terrorists." He did little to flesh out his remark, but added that he understood it was "very hard to fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces." At another point, he added, "There may or may not be a conventional component" to the war on terrorism.
The Pentagon has begun a redeployment of ships, planes and personnel around the globe to prepare for a military strike, but officials have said little to suggest any type of attack is imminent.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the work of U.S. and British forces inside Afghanistan was a prelude to potential military action. The troops have been sent in the past few days, the official said, as the United States charts a course to find prime suspect Osama bin Laden and the network of terrorist camps he is believed to run.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush wants to work with Democrats on the issue of help for laid-off workers. "He's going to discuss a variety of ideas that many people, including many leading Democrats, have offered about how to help workers who have lost their jobs," the spokesman said.
Senior White House officials said Bush was open to extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. He also wants to boost job training programs but is cool to Democratic demands for extra health insurance benefits targeted at airline workers, aides said. Bush might be open to helping all laid-off workers pay health insurance premiums, but aides said it was too soon to tell if there was a need.
The administration continued its worldwide diplomatic campaign to build an anti-terrorism coalition _ and one official disclosed the administration had received intelligence about bin Laden's al-Qaida network from Libya, long a fixture on the government's list of terrorist-sponsoring states.
There was no evident progress on the administration's immediate goal of persuading Afghanistan to turn over bin Laden.
A delegation of Pakistani religious and government leaders traveled to Kandahar, home base of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. But participants on both sides said after daylong talks the nation's ruler, Mullah Mohammed Omar, refused even to discuss bin Laden.
Mufti Mohammed Jamil, leader of a religious Pakistani political party and a participant in the talks, said, "I don't think that Mullah Omar is afraid of war."
In New York, the laborious and emotionally draining work continued at the World Trade Center site. "The amount of time they need to remove and clear the site will range anywhere from nine months to one year," Giuliani said before attending the latest in a seemingly endless string of memorial services for victims.
As of Friday, 306 bodies had been recovered at the site, where hijacked jetliners were piloted into each of the twin towers. The mayor put the number of missing at 5,960. and said some of their bodies may never be found.
An additional 189 people are believed to have died at the site of a similar hijacking suicide mission at the Pentagon. Forty-four more people perished when a hijacked plane crashed in the area outside Pittsburgh after what authorities say was a struggle between the passengers and the hijackers.
The gaping damage at the Pentagon underscores the concern that officials have about reopening Reagan National Airport. Mineta appeared on several television programs during the day, and in the course of an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," said the airport will "definitely reopen." He predicted a decision by Bush as early as Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
That was further than Fleischer wanted to go a few hours later when reporters questioned him. But officials said they expected a decision fairly soon to permit the facility to reopen once special security concerns had been addressed.
Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to embrace a package of relief for workers laid off in the aftermath of the attacks, even though they rushed through a multibillion-dollar bailout for the airline companies.
Fleischer said Bush wants to work with Democrats on the issue. "He's
going to discuss a variety of ideas that many people, including many
leading Democrats, have offered about how to help workers who have lost
their jobs," he said.