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Bush Thanks Australia for Its Help in War on Terrorism - 2003-10-23

In a speech to Australia's Parliament, President Bush has thanked the country for joining American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was the last stop on the president's six-nation tour of Asia.

The president's arrival at Parliament was greeted by some 5,000 protesters denouncing Australia's participation in the invasion of Iraq. Inside the chamber, his speech was twice interrupted by opposition legislators. But Mr. Bush pressed on, saying he loves free speech. Linking their fight against terrorism, the president said both countries know the destruction and grief of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, and the 2002 bombing of nightclubs in Bali that killed 88 Australians.

"No country can live peacefully in the world that terrorists would make for us. And no people are immune from the sudden violence that can come to an office building or an airplane or a nightclub or a city bus," said Mr. Bush. "Your nation and mine have known the shock and felt the sorrow and laid the dead to rest, and we refuse to live our lives at the mercy of murderers."

President Bush told Australian legislators terrorists will not be stopped by negotiations, do not respond to reason, and cannot be appeased. He said they must be found, fought and defeated. He thanked Australia for sending troops to help in Iraq and again justified the invasion, saying Saddam Hussein was a "grave and gathering danger."

The failure, so far, to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prompted 41 members of Parliament to write Mr. Bush a letter saying he misled Australia into joining that fight on the premise of a danger they say did not exist.

Introducing President Bush, Prime Minister John Howard said toppling Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. "We had a divided view in this nation on the question of our participation in Iraq. Let me simply state on behalf of the government that we believe the right decision was taken," he said. "We believe Australia was right to join the United States, and I know that all Australians believe that the people of Iraq are better off without that loathsome dictator, Saddam Hussein."

While no Australian soldiers were killed in Iraq, they did suffer the first coalition casualty in Afghanistan, and President Bush will lay a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in honor of Special Air Service Sergeant Andrew Russell.

Mr. Bush told parliament that "decisive victories" in Afghanistan and Iraq must be followed by "decisive days" ahead. "We seek the rise of freedom and self-government in Afghanistan and Iraq for the benefit of their people and as an example to their neighbors and for the security of the world," he said. "America and Australia are helping the people of both those nations to defend themselves, to build the institutions of law and democracy and to establish the beginning of free enterprise."

President Bush said Australia and the United States are also working together to convince North Korea to give-up its nuclear weapons program. He praised Australia for leading the way to peace in Southeast Asia by helping establish the new nation of East Timor.