Afghanistan, U.S. 'allies against terror'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address has said America and Afghanistan are now "allies against terror."
In a speech targeted at the rest of the world as much as at the U.S. public, Bush focused much of his address on the continuing war against terror -- which, he said, "is only beginning."
Illustrating the widening scope of that conflict, he singled out North Korea, Iran and Iraq as states he said were allying themselves with terrorists to form "an axis of evil."
With these states seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, Bush called on the "civilized world" to act against them, saying "the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
"The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons," he said.
Opening his address, he said the state of the American union -- four months on from the September 11 attacks -- was "never stronger."
He then went on to introduce the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, saying U.S. forces had liberated Afghanistan from "brutal oppression" and saved its people from starvation.
Karzai, the first Afghan leader to visit the United States since 1963, watched the address from the VIP box seated next to first lady Laura Bush, members of the U.S. Special Forces who fought in Afghanistan, as well as widows of U.S. combatants who died in the country.
Both he and Afghanistan's new Minister for Women's Affairs Sima Sewar, who attended as special guests of the president, received standing ovations.
More applause followed Bush's praise for the "strong leadership" of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key player in enabling the U.S. to carry out operations against Taliban and al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.
Focusing a large chunk of his speech on the continuing threat to America, Bush said that despite the successes in Afghanistan, "tens of thousands" of terrorists remain active and a threat.
"What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that -- far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning," he said.
"Dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning."
Karzai's attendance at the keynote speech is being seen as a demonstration of the Bush administration's stated commitment to aiding the reconstruction and future stability of Afghanistan.
During Karzai's visit to the U.S. capital, Bush and other U.S. officials have reaffirmed their commitment to a partnership with Afghanistan's new government and given assurances the United States will help the training of police and military.
Earlier, on the final day of his stay in Washington, Karzai spoke to congressional leaders, reminding them that his country needs immediate and long-term financial assistance if it is to get back on its feet.
And in a speech to the National Press Club he took time out to address the controversy surrounding the detainees taken captive in Afghanistan and held at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba.
"The people that are detained in Guantanamo, they are not prisoners of war, I see it in very clear terms, gentlemen and ladies," Karzai said.
"They're criminals, they brutalized Afghanistan, they killed our people, they destroyed our land."
His comments echoed the position of President Bush, who said Monday the detainees "will not be treated as prisoners of war," although he acknowledged that the administration was still considering the "legal ramifications" of whether the Geneva Conventions apply to them.
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