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Bush: U.S. won't be deterred by al-Qaida threat

While meeting with Colombia President Alvaro Uribe at his Texas ranch, President Bush said Thursday that videotape threats from Al Qaida's second-in-command will not drive the U.S. out of Iraq.
US President George W Bush talks next to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in Texas
At a news conference Thursday at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe condemn terrorism and al-Qaida's recent threat.Larry Downing / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Bush said Thursday that videotape threats from Al Qaida's second-in-command will not drive the United States out of Iraq or the broader Middle East.

"We will stay on the offense against these people," Bush said of the comments by Ayman al-Zawahri.

Al-Zawahri threatened more destruction in London and said in a videotape earlier Thursday that the United States would suffer tens of thousands of military dead if it does not withdraw from Iraq.

"They're terrorists and they're killers and they will kill innocent they can impose their dark vision on the world," Bush said as he stood alongside Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is visiting Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch.

Drug trafficking, terrorism and trade topped the agenda for Uribe's meeting at the ranch where Bush likes to conduct homespun diplomacy away from the formality of the White House and Washington.

Uribe: U.S. cooperation against terrorism ‘exemplary’
Uribe said that both he and Bush consider the war against international terrorism a top priority of both their countries.

"The great enemy of Colombian democracy is terrorism...and our great partner in defeating it has been the government and people of the United States," Uribe said during a news conference Thursday. "U.S. cooperation has been exemplary. It has gone beyond rhetoric. ... All democratic countries should know that."

Bush vowed continued U.S. aid to help Colombia fight narco-terrorism, and to enhance its economy and its economic institutions. "America will continue to stand with the people of Colombia," he said.

Uribe said more U.S. support was important and thanked Bush for seeking more aid from Congress.

"We cannot leave this task half finished," he said.

For Bush, Uribe's visit was a way to bolster the leader of a nation that is fighting terrorists and drug lords and working to build better trade relations with the United States.

For Uribe, the trek to Texas came at a critical moment in Colombia where rebels, funded by narcotics trade, kidnapping and extortion, have been struggling to topple the government and establish a Marxist-style state. Outlawed right-wing paramilitary forces also have been battling the rebels. The 40-year-old conflict kills more than 3,000 people every year, mostly civilians, with allegations that human rights abuses are being committed on all sides.

New drug trafficking law for Colombia
Uribe was meeting with Bush after recently signing the "justice and peace" law, which aims to dismantle paramilitary forces that also are heavily involved in drug trafficking and reintegrate them into the legal side of Colombian society. Critics say the new law goes too easy on criminals.

Their meeting comes just a day after the State Department announced that Colombia's government and armed forces have met human rights standards needed to qualify for full funding of U.S. assistance programs. Colombia has received more than $3 billion in U.S. aid during the past five years as part of an effort to wipe out cocaine and heroin production and crush the long-running leftist insurgency.

During the presidents' news conference Thursday, Bush also paid tribute to Marines who died over the past few days in bombings in Iraq, including a community from near Columbus, Ohio, which suffered heavy losses.

He said that the community of Brook Park "suffered mightily over the last couple of days."

"I hope they can take comfort in the fact that millions of their fellow citizens pray for them," he said.

U.S. 'will defend itself'
During a question and answer session with reporters, Bush was asked about al-Zawahri's videotaped warnings.

"The comments of the No. 2 man of Al-Qaida make it clear that Iraq is part of this war on terror, and we're at war," Bush said.

"As I have told the American people, people like Zawahri have an ideology that is dark, dim, backwards," the president said. "They don't trust, they don't appreciate women. If you don't agree to their narrow view of religion, you're whipped in the public square."

Bush said that al-Zawahri "was a part of the team that attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001."

"Part of their goal is to drive us out of the broader Middle East: precisely what this Zawahiri said. He's threatening. They have come up against a nation that, one, will defend itself," Bush said.

"We will stay the course. We will complete the job in Iraq," he added.

After the news conference, Bush and Uribe toured the ranch in Bush's white pickup truck — a pastime that Bush likes to call "windshield ranching."