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Bush Says al-Qaida Remains a Threat but Weaker Than in 2001


U.S. intelligence officials say al-Qaida is gaining strength from bases in the remote tribal areas of western Pakistan. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush says the terrorist group remains a threat, but is weaker than it was before the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

A new threat assessment by the National Counterterrorism Center says al-Qaida has rebuilt much of its organization, despite six years of U.S. attacks.

The report, entitled "Al-Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West" says the terrorist group is considerably weaker than it was before the September 11, 2001 attacks, but is stronger than it has been in years, largely due to to safe havens in western Pakistan.

U.S. officials trace that resurgence to last year's deal by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to withdraw army units from the area in exchange for promises from tribal leaders that they would prevent the Taleban and al-Qaida from training and sending terrorists across the border into Afghanistan.

Asked about the new threat assessment at a White House press conference, President Bush dismissed news reports that the terrorist group is now as strong as it was before September 11, but said there is no question al-Qaida is still a danger.

"Because of the actions we have taken, al-Qaida is weaker today than they would have been," he said. "They are still a threat. They are still dangerous. And that is why it is important that we succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq and anywhere else we find them."

The new threat assessment comes as Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff this week said he has a gut feeling that America faces an increased chance of terrorist attack during the next few months.

The White House says there is no credible, specific intelligence to suggest an imminent threat. President Bush says when there is a credible threat he will share it with the American people.

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