Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bush calls for cooperation on security

IN CONCERT During his annual State of the Union address, the US president called for help in resolving a range of issues including terrorism, nuclear weapons and repression

AFP , WASHINGTON

In his annual State of the Union address, US President George W. Bush called on Tuesday for concerted action to end North Korea's nuclear weapons drive, the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan and help restore democracy in Myanmar.

He called for a coordinated response to the threat of international terrorism, citing Southeast Asia's success in breaking up a terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the US.

In a speech that focused largely on Iraq, energy and domestic health issues, the US leader also sought a "serious, civil, and conclusive debate" to draw up comprehensive US legislation to regulate immigration.

Close to one million Asians are considered illegal immigrants in the US and a proposed crackdown against them led to massive protests last year.

Beleaguered by the unending war in Iraq and politically handicapped by a Democratic-controlled Congress, Bush still found time to address some of Washington's key concerns in Asia.

He lumped military-ruled Myanmar together with Cuba and Belarus, saying "we will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom."

China and Russia recently vetoed a US draft resolution at the UN Security Council urging Myanmar's rulers to free all political detainees and end military sexual violence.

"Sorry that it was vetoed by two countries, but again, it put the issue of Burma [Myanmar] as an issue for the international community," Bush's national security advisor Steve Hadley said as he briefed reporters before the president's speech. "So it's an ongoing effort."

On North Korea's nuclear weapons drive, Bush said the US was pinning its hopes on six-party talks to end the crisis.

"Together with our partners in China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, we are pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons," he said.

The US and the four countries are negotiating with Pyongyang to disband its nuclear arms network in return for security and diplomatic guarantees and energy and other aid.

In Afghanistan, Bush noted the landmark efforts by NATO forces to drive out Taliban militants and al-Qaeda fighters trying to regain power.

He said additional US forces were being sent to Iraq "with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out.

"We did not drive al-Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq," he said.

Bush called for cooperation from allies, including in Asia, in the "war on terror," saying that "every success against the terrorists is a reminder of the shoreless ambitions of this enemy."

"We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States," he said, citing a key operation in the region, regarded by Washington as the second front in the war on terror.

The cell of 17 operatives was led by an Indonesian militant known as Hambali, captured in Thailand in August 2003. He admitted that the operatives "were being groomed for attacks inside the United States, probably using airplanes."

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