Bush lauds Manila terror fight

US President George W Bush has thanked the Philippines for backing the US-led war on terror, and pledged to help defeat Islamic extremists in the south of the country.

Addressing the Philippine Congress, Mr Bush repeated promises to contribute training and an unspecified sum of money to help modernise the military.

He was speaking during an eight-hour visit, on the second leg of a six-nation Asian tour.

The US leader's speech was delayed for more than an hour because of security concerns on the motorcade route to the congress building, US officials said.

Live television reports had earlier showed two US F-15 fighter jets escorting Air Force One into the capital Manila. The jets were so close, that the pilots' faces were clearly visible from the presidential plane.

'Strong and stalwart'

Mr Bush vowed to help the Philippines bring Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels "to justice" and work with South East Asian nations to dismantle Jemaah Islamiah, a militant network that has been linked to al-Qaeda.

"My country will provide technical assistance, field expertise and funding," he said, in what was the first speech by a US president to a join session of the Philippine Congress since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Earlier, following a 40-minute meeting at the presidential palace, Mr Bush described Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as a "strong and stalwart" leader, praising her for her tough stance against Muslim rebels.

"There are no rules when it comes to a crowd like Abu Sayyaf," Mr Bush said. "They kidnap, they kill, they maim.

"There's only one way to deal with them and that's to find them and bring them to justice."

His visit is intended to give support to Mrs Arroyo, who is seeking a new term in next May's presidential election.

A few hours before Mr Bush's arrival, Philippine officials announced the arrest of an Indonesian whom they described as the second-in-command of Jemaah Islamiah.

The BBC's Rob Watson, who is travelling with the president, says Mr Bush's visit to Manila is the American secret service's worst nightmare - since extremist Islamic groups continue to carry out attacks in the country.

Several thousand anti-US protesters demonstrated against Mr Bush's visit to the Philippines, some burning US flags.

Several hundred riot police have been guarding the streets. However there were no reports of violence.

From Manila, Mr Bush has gone on to Thailand, where he will join regional leaders at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum.

The tour will also take him to Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

In Japan on Friday, Mr Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held talks on the North Korean nuclear standoff and the rebuilding of Iraq.

18/10/2003

Bron : BBC World

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