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Bush Says al-Qaida Still Strong


Terrorism topped the agenda for U.S. President George Bush as he met Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

The president and secretary-general discussed the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's troubled Darfur region and U.N. investigations into the killings of anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon.

But the president focused on terrorism in remarks to reporters following his meeting with the secretary-general on a day when a new intelligence estimate says al-Qaida remains determined to attack the United States.

Mr. Bush says those terrorists would be a lot stronger today if U.S. troops had not stayed on the offensive. He again sought to use the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington to help justify an unpopular war in Iraq, saying it is in America's interest to defeat al-Qaida overseas to prevent future attacks at home.

"These people have sworn allegiance to the very same man who ordered the attack on September the 11th, 2001, Osama bin Laden. And they want us to leave parts of the world, like Iraq, so they can establish a safe haven from which to spread their poisonous ideology. And we are steadfast in our determination to not only protect the American people, but to protect these young democracies," he said.

The U.N. secretary-general says Iraq is a problem for the whole world and his organization is prepared to help the Iraqi government overcome its difficulties.

"We are going to help their political facilitation, as well as economic and social reconstruction. And we also are going to continue the international compact process for Iraq, as well as expanded foreign ministers meeting. This will provide good opportunity for Iraqi people and international community to work together for peace and security in Iraq," he said.

Mr. Ban Monday cautioned against any rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq saying that could lead to a further deterioration of the security situation.

President Bush says it is too soon to judge whether his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq is working. Opposition Democrats want a timetable for withdrawal that would have all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by next April.

The president and secretary-general also discussed Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and global climate change.