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Bush calls on world leaders to join fight

President Bush, declaring "the time for sympathy has now passed, the time for action has now arrived," demanded Saturday that the world's governments move beyond words and join him in an unyielding war against international terrorism that he compared to World War II.

In a 22-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly that was stern and at times sermon-like, Bush warned that nations that denounce terrorism publicly but continue to harbor terrorists or overlook their activities would face America's wrath.

"Some governments still turn a blind eye to the terrorists, hoping the threat will pass them by. They are mistaken," Bush said.

Others "have cast their lot with the terrorists," he said. "For every regime that sponsors terror, there is a price to be paid. And it will be paid," Bush said, suggesting there could be targets of U.S. military action beyond the current campaign in Afghanistan.

Bush did not accuse any country by name. But his remarks appeared aimed both at countries like Iraq, which Washington accuses of sponsoring terrorism, and nations like Lebanon, which last week refused U.S. requests to freeze the financial assets of the Hezbollah terrorist organization.

It was Bush's first address as president to the annual gathering of world leaders, and the reaction to his call to arms is likely to be mixed.

The U.S. war against Afghanistan's Taliban leaders has at least tacit acceptance from most world governments. But Arab states have resisted broadening the war on terrorism out of concern it could affect groups opposing Israel and backing Palestinians that some nations consider legitimate national liberation movements.

"We must unite in opposing all terrorists, not just some of them," Bush said, addressing that argument. "No national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences."

U.S. officials said they expect plenty of criticism of the airstrikes on Afghanistan during a week of speeches and debate at the United Nations. Some nations worry that the war on terrorism will overshadow other goals they see as equally important, such as economic development and fighting HIV/AIDS, while others worry about civilian death and destruction in Afghanistan.

Taking the podium after Bush, South African President Thabo Mbeki said deprivation and injustice around the globe breed resentment, and correcting this "constitutes and must constitute the decisive front of struggle against terrorism."

Knight Ridder cited a senior U.S. official as saying the tone of the debate has changed _ in Washington's favor _ because of videotaped statements Osama bin Laden made recently criticizing the United Nations, calling Secretary General Kofi Annan a "criminal" and suggesting the overthrow of Arab governments.

The gathering at U.N. headquarters, not far from the site where two hijacked commercial airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing nearly 5,000 people, took place under heavy security.

"A few miles from here, many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble," said Bush, who today will take Annan and other world leaders on a tour of the ruins.

"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th," Bush said. "There is no corner of the Earth distant or dark enough to protect them," he said of the perpetrators of the attacks.

Bush repeated his warning that bin Laden and his allies are searching for nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

"They can be expected to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons the moment they are capable of doing so. No hint of conscience would prevent it," he said.

With Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sitting in the General Assembly Hall, Bush promised to push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as Arab allies have pleaded with him to do.

"We are working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders," Bush said. "But peace will only come when all have sworn off, forever, incitement, violence and terror," he said, in an apparent message to Arafat.

White House officials said Bush has no plans to meet separately with Arafat, despite pleas from U.S. Arab allies that he do so.