Image: Peace activists wear masks of Bush, Cheney and Rice
Chris Helgren  /  Reuters
Peace activists march against President Bush's visit in Rome, Wednesday, June 11.
updated 6/12/2008 2:42:12 PM ET 2008-06-12T18:42:12

President Bush said Thursday in Rome that he strongly disagreed with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that clears foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their detention in American civilian courts.

Bush suggested new legislation may now be needed to keep the American people safe.

"We'll abide by the court's decision," Bush said during a news conference in Rome. "That doesn't mean I have to agree with it."

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.

"It was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented," Bush said. "And that dissent was based upon their serious concerns about U.S. national security."

Bush said his administration will study the ruling. "We'll do this with this in mind — to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate so we can safely say to the American people, 'We're doing everything we can to protect you.'"

Farewell tour of Europe
The president, meeting with allies in a farewell tour of Europe, was reminded again that his time in office is fleeting.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 71, was asked which U.S. president he would like to see next — Sen. John McCain of Arizona or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.

"I suppose I could express my own personal preference for one of the candidates, the Republican candidate," Berlusconi said. "And this is for a very selfish reason, and that is that I would no longer be the oldest person at the upcoming G-8 (meeting) because McCain is a month older than me."

Earlier in the day, Bush was greeted in Rome by anti-war activists and hundreds of other demonstrators, who marched through the streets of the Italian capital.

Commercial flights have been banned over Rome during Bush's two-day stay, which includes a visit with the pope on Friday.

Dozens of buses and trams have been rerouted. Thousands of policemen have been deployed as part of a tight security plan to monitor any further protests, though Wednesday's march drew far fewer demonstrators than previous visits by Bush.

Slovenia and Germany, the first two stops on Bush's trip, were devoid of demonstrators. One activist group in Germany that had organized protests during previous Bush visits said they did not think this trip was not important enough because Bush has little time left in office.

The Rome protest, though smaller than past demonstrations, was evidence that the Italian public still opposes the Bush administration.

Berlusconi backed Bush on Iraq
Unlike other European leaders, such as former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former French President Jacques Chirac, Berlusconi supported Bush on Iraq from the start. The 71-year-old media mogul defied domestic opposition and dispatched about 3,000 troops to Iraq after the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Those troops came home, and Berlusconi, recently elected to his third stint in power since 1994, has pledged not to send any back.

More than 2,000 Italian troops, however, are deployed as part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Italy, along with Germany, France and Spain, have restricted their troops to less dangerous areas in northern Afghanistan. That has caused a rift because other NATO members are deployed in the more violent regions of the nation. The Italian government is reviewing the restrictions and Berlusconi's office said the premier would talk to Bush about that when they meet.

Permanent Security Council spot?
Berlusconi and Bush were to discuss Italy's interest in joining with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany that are making a diplomatic push to get Iran to give up what the West believes is an effort to develop nuclear weapons. That might seem unusual for Italy, which recently surpassed Germany as Iran's largest trading partner.

But to show Italy's strong opposition to Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions, Berlusconi and his government refused to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in Rome for a U.N.-sponsored food summit last week.

Bush will meet with the pope on Friday before departing to Paris to continue his farewell European tour. It will be Bush's third meeting with Benedict. The two last met in April at the White House in Washington.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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