Bush promises Philippines help in fight against terror

MANILA Amid extraordinary security, U.S. President George Bush on Saturday brought this key ally promises of aid to help root out al-Qaida-linked terror groups and thanks for standing alongside U.S. forces in Iraq.

Bush praised President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her fight against terrorism, and said the threat here from the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group was particularly dangerous.

"It's serious because there are no rules when it comes to a crowd like Abu Sayyaf they kidnap, they kill, they maim," Bush said, calling Arroyo a "strong and stalwart leader."

Pointing to the recent killing of an Abu Sayyaf leader and the capture of others, Bush told reporters that "The success against this particular group is a model for the region."

Arroyo thanked Bush for American security assistance. "We must close ranks and stand firm against terrorist threats, however grave," she said.

With concerns for a possible terrorist attack high, Air Force One was escorted here by a pair of U.S. fighter jets that flew so close the pilots' faces were clearly visible from the presidential aircraft.

When Bush stepped off the plane, two girls draped a necklace of white sampaguitas, the Philippines' national flower, around his neck. Then he walked down a red carpet, past a line of military guardsmen and into his armored limousine, shipped here from Washington.

There were thousands of flag-waving well wishers, and even some colorful dancers in the streets, as Bush's motorcade rode by. A helicopter flew overhead, and at one point gunboats raced alongside as the procession took him along Manila Bay to a wreath-laying ceremony.

Scheduled to spend no more than eight hours here, Bush was rushing through talks with Arroyo, a speech to Congress and a formal state dinner before flying on to Thailand.

In Manila, more than 1,000 university students and other activists marched to protest Bush's visit. They waved anti-U.S. placards and streamers saying, "Ban Bush" and "Bush No. 1 terrorist."

Thousands of riot and traffic police were deployed on major thoroughfares to keep protesters away. Many downtown roads were blocked or traffic rerouted for Bush's motorcade, causing traffic jams.

The White House decision not to spend the night here, despite the evening banquet, reflected security concerns about potential terrorism activity.

It was the second stop on a six-nation tour of Asia and Australia, a mission in which Bush is seeking support in terms of both troops and cash to help stabilize postwar Iraq and relieve American troops stationed there.

He was headed next to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The visit to Manila was widely seen as a gesture to reward Arroyo, a U.S.-educated economist. Earlier in the year, Bush threw a state dinner at the White House for her. The Philippines has been an early backer of U.S. policy both in Iraq and in the broader war on terrorism, but its military is ill-equipped and the country is the midst of an economic downturn.

The Philippines has sent about 100 soldiers, police and health workers to Iraq, while the United States has worked closely to modernize the 113,000-member Philippine military and has sent advisers to help the military root out terrorist activity in the south.

The president will ask how he can further help the Philippine leader, who recently had to deal with a failed mutiny by military officers.

Her government was expected to push Bush for 30 military helicopters and 30,000 M-15 rifles to help fight insurgents and suspected terror groups. (Wire reports)

18/10/2003

Bron : Japan Today

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