Bush warning 'an arrogant stance'
PHILIPPINES, Manila -- Philippine officials have joined a chorus of several other nations in reacting angrily to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address, after the U.S. leader warned that if countries did not combat terrorism on their soil, "America will".
The speech aired as several hundred U.S. troops and advisers made final preparations for a six-month joint exercise with the Philippine military who have been fighting the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group in the south of the country.
During the speech, Bush focused on the continuing war against terror, grouping North Korea with Iraq and Iran as states promoting terrorist activity, calling them "an axis of evil."
Bush said that "a terrorist underworld" exists in a dozen countries -- including the Philippines -- adding "if they do not act, America will" -- comments that irked some Filipino officials.
The statement "exactly portrays the arrogant stance of the U.S. to justify its unilateral action and intervention in other countries in the name of fighting terrorism," the Associated Press news agency quoted Representative Saturnino Ocampo.
"It's clear in my mind that one president of a friendly country does not threaten another friendly country," Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said as reported by the Associated Press.
'Ticking time bombs'
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes warned Washington not to overexert its will.
"Some people would want to interpret it to mean that the U.S. will impose its will. But we're a self-respecting sovereign state, and we will not allow any other country to impose its will on us if it's against our national interest," Reyes said, in the Associated Press report.
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."
'Baseless' and 'arrogant'
Angry reaction in Manila was more than matched in the Middle East, with both Iran and Iraq rejecting Bush's remarks as "baseless" and "arrogant".
"We condemn the American accusations, and think the world no longer accepts hegemony," Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said.
"We think Mr. Bush would do better by providing proof of his allegations … he should know that the repetition of such accusations is not going to help him."
Across the border in Iraq, Salim al-Qubaisi, head of the Iraqi Parliament's Foreign and Arab Relations Committee, told Reuters that "Little Bush's accusation against Iraq is baseless."
"The American administration led by Bush has been threatening Iraq from time to time to prepare world public opinion for a new aggression against Iraq," Qubaisi said in the Reuters report.
"But such threats do not scare us, as the Iraqi people are well prepared to repel any aggression or foolishness by the American-Zionist administration," he added.
Reaction from North Korea was not immediate though Bush's comments were bound to rile Pyongyang which has condemned the U.S. leader and his policies in the past year.
A recent call for North Korea to halt proliferation of nuclear weapons technology was denounced by Pyongyang as "nothing but a provocative remark".
"It is again the U.S. which is threatening the Korean people with nuclear weapons," a government spokesman told the state-run Korean Central News Agency, referring to the strong U.S. military presence in South Korea.
Bush's address also signaled a shifting of emphasis of the war against terrorism from the military campaign in Afghanistan, possibly represented by the attendence of interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
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.
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