Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Baghdad explosion won't derail reconstruction: Bush

REUTERS , CRAWFORD, TEXAS

US President George W. Bush said on Tuesday a bomb blast that ripped through the UN headquarters in Baghdad was "testing our will" but would not derail US efforts to rebuild Iraq.

"We will persevere through every hardship," he said.

Bush, who has had little success so far in persuading other nations to send peacekeepers to Iraq, said: "The terrorists want to return to the days of torture chambers and mass graves .... All nations of the world face a challenge and a choice."

The president announced no new measures to improve security after the attack, but pledged to provide "all possible assistance" to the UN rescue and recovery effort.

The blast killed at least 20 people, including the top UN envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil.

"Every sign of progress in Iraq adds to the desperation of the terrorists and the remnants of Saddam [Hussein's] brutal regime. The civilized world will not be intimidated, and these killers will not determine the future of Iraq," Bush told reporters after he called UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

"Iraq is on an irreversible course toward self-government and peace. And America and our friends in the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people," added Bush, who was on the golf course when news of the bombing first broke.

He played 11 holes before returning to his ranch to monitor developments.

Later on Tuesday, Bush called Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to express condolences over his nation's "grave loss" of Vieira de Mello, the White House said. Bush also called British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his closest Iraq war ally, and vowed to combat terrorism.

"By attempting to spread chaos and fear, terrorists are testing our will. Across the world, they are finding that our will cannot be shaken," Bush said.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said during a visit to Colombia he had no evidence that attackers from outside Iraq might have set off the bomb and bridled at a suggestion the blast might signal the situation was out of control.

"What it signals is that terrorists can attack at any target, any place," he told reporters. "Terrorists have been killing people for decades and it's always a terrible thing when it happens."

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