Sun, Sep 17, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bush digs in after Republican anti-terror law rebellion

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

George Bush stared down a revolt by Senate Republicans on Friday, saying their resistance to tough terror laws sought by the White House would expose the US to another al-Qaeda attack.

Bush showed no sign of compromise after four prominent Republican senators voted for a bill which the White House opposes on the treatment and trial of detainees.

"Time is running out," President Bush told a press conference at the White House on Friday. "Congress needs to act wisely and promptly."

Bush went on to warn that the refusal of the senators to endorse White House proposals to redefine compliance with sections of the Geneva Convention prohibiting torture would weaken the US in its "war on terror."

"I believe that it is vital that our folks on the frontline have the tools that are necessary to protect the American people," Bush said.

"The reason they need those tools is because the enemy wants to attack us again."

Senator John McCain and the other Republican rebels argue that loosening the standard on the Geneva Convention would put US soldiers at greater risk of mistreatment if captured.

Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, added his prestige to their cause.

In a letter to McCain, Powell said the White House proposals would create doubts about the "moral basis" of the war on terror.

But Bush showed little patience for that argument.

"It is unacceptable to think that any kind of comparison [exists] between the behavior of the [US] and the Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve their objective."

He warned that the Senate draft would force the CIA to stop interrogating terror suspects at its secret prison network, the existence of which he acknowledged for the first time last week.

Bush also said that the CIA had used "alternative interrogation procedures" against high-value al-Qaeda suspects to gather intelligence that had thwarted attacks.

Bush argues that the Geneva Convention is vague and that the CIA and other agencies need greater clarity to ensure they will not face future prosecution for war crimes.

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