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Bush warns war on terror not over

'Committed to freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and ... Palestine'

President Bush greets sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln after landing aboard the aircraft carrier Thursday.
President Bush greets sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln after landing aboard the aircraft carrier Thursday.

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• Transcript: Bush's speech 
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
start quoteThe advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world.end quote
-- President Bush

ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CNN) -- The war on terror will confront "any person, organization or government" that cooperates with terrorist factions, President Bush warned from a U.S. warship.

Speaking Thursday from the USS Abraham Lincoln, where Bush welcomed home the crew from the Iraq war and praised a "job well done," he said, "The advance of freedom ... [would] undermine the appeal of terror."

But he also told the sailors -- and the world -- that American action in the war against terror might not be over.(Transcript, Audio Slide Show, Gallery)

"Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country and a target of American justice," he said.

"Any person, organization or government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world and will be confronted.

"And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America."

Bush told the Lincoln crew that the battle for Iraq was one victory in the war on terror, which began on September 11, 2001.

In the 19 months since the attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Bush said, "Nearly half of al Qaeda's senior operatives have been captured or killed."

Bush described al Qaeda as "wounded but not destroyed" and said the United States would continue to hunt down members of the terrorist network.

He also said removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq would make other nations less vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

"We have not forgotten the victims of September 11, the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got.

"Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all."

But he added that the United States was willing to work with nations prepared to press forward with peaceful agendas.

"We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope.

"When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life."

Bush arrived at the huge carrier off the California coast on a Navy plane, sitting in the co-pilot's seat. The ship docks Friday in San Diego, California, after a nearly 10-month deployment, including service in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations. (Full story)

Bush avoided a formal declaration that the war in Iraq was over. A formal declaration of victory, scholars said, carries with it certain obligations under the Geneva Conventions, and using the word could invite questions about the continued U.S. presence in Iraq.

Scholars familiar with laws governing war said that declaring victory would complicate efforts by coalition forces to track down the former members of Saddam's regime.

The Geneva Conventions also call for the release and repatriation "without delay" of prisoners of war at the close of hostilities.

CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash, Pentagon Producer Mike Mount and Producer Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.

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