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U.S.: Bush Ends Asian Tour That Focused On Terrorism, Trade

  • Kathleen Moore

Prague, 23 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has wrapped up his six-nation tour of Asia.

His last stop took him to Australia, where he gave an address today to a joint session of Parliament. He thanked Australia for sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and focused again on what has been a recurrent theme of his weeklong trip -- the fight against terrorism.

"We must fight this enemy with all our strength. No country can live peacefully in a world that the terrorists would make for us. And no people are immune from the sudden violence that can come to an office building, or an airplane, or a nightclub, or a city bus. Your nation and mine have known the shock and felt the sorrow and laid the dead to rest, and we refuse to live our lives at the mercy of murderers," Bush said.

The war on terrorism has been at the center of Bush's talks throughout the trip, which has taken him to Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia.

He won a commitment from regional leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Thailand to expand the trade group's focus to include security, including pledges to crack down on terrorism.

But Bush has heard from critics, too. Several thousand protesters demonstrated outside the Australian Parliament in Canberra as Bush gave his speech today. And there was heckling inside the chamber, from the teenaged son of an Australian Al-Qaeda suspect held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay. Ahmed Habib shouted, "Hey Bush, what about my Dad?" before being ejected from the public gallery.

And two Green Party deputies opposed to the war in Iraq, including Senator Kerry Nettle, interrupted Bush twice during his speech.

Bush: "We must know firsthand...."

Parliamentary Speaker: "Senator Nettle will resume her seat. Sergeant, remove Senator Nettle. Senator Nettle will resume her seat. The president has the...Senator Nettle is warned. The sergeant will remove Senator Nettle."

Bush: "I love free speech!" [Cheers and applause.]

There were also protests in the Philippines and Indonesia, including a demonstration in Jakarta attended by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's sister.

In Bali, the site of last year's deadly nightclub blast, Bush held an hourlong discussion with Muslim leaders opposed to U.S. policy on Iraq and Israel. And President Sukarnoputri hinted at disagreements over the war on terrorism. "Despite the fact that we do not always a share common perspective, we both continue to hold a mutual understanding that it is in the interest of the two countries to maintain consultation and cooperation in the pursuit of global peace," she said.

There was tight security throughout Bush's tour. In Australia, air force jets escorted his plane to Canberra and patrolled the skies. In Bali, warships patrolled offshore, and Bush stayed just four hours.

Other topics covered during the trip included Iraqi reconstruction, trade, and the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program.

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