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Published: Friday, 9/15/2006

Bush argues anew for legislation covering interrogation of terrorism suspects


WASHINGTON Facing a GOP revolt in the Senate, President Bush urged Congress today to join in backing legislation to spell out strategies for interrogating and trying terror suspects, saying the enemy wants to attack us again.

Time is running out, Bush said in a Rose Garden news conference. Congress needs to act wisely and promptly.

Bush denied that the United States might lose the high ground in the eyes of world opinion, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested.

It s unacceptable to think there s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, said Bush, growing animated as he spoke.

Bush s comments came a day after Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee broke with the administration and approved a bill for detention and trial of foreign terrorism suspects. Bush claims the measure would compromise the war on terrorism.

He is urging the Senate to pass a bill more like a House-passed one that would allow his administration to continue holding and trying terror suspects before military tribunals.

Bush said he would work with Congress to resolve the disputed language, but stood firm on his demands.

If not for this program, our intelligence community believes al Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland, he said.

Unfortunately the recent Supreme Court decision put the future of this program in question. ... We need this legislation to save it.

The high court earlier this year struck down Bush s current arrangement for trying detainees held at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bush said that it was vital to change the law to protect intelligence professionals who are called on to question detainees to obtain vital information. They don t want to be tried as war criminals. ... They expect our government to give them clarity about what is right and what is wrong.

He called it an important debate that defines whether or not we can protect ourselves. Congress has got a decision to make.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers of the European Union today called on the United States to respect international law in its handling of terror suspects after Bush acknowledged his country had run secret prisons abroad.

We reiterate that in combatting terrorism, human rights and human standards have to be maintained, said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, speaking on behalf of the 25 EU ministers. We acknowledge the intention of the U.S. administration to treat all detainees in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Four Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Democrats on Thursday on the Armed Services Committee and voted 15-9 for the measure that Bush opposes.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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