WASHINGTON – President Bush said Monday a new wave of deadly attacks shows the world is still dangerous despite progress toward dismantling the Al Qaeda (search) terrorist network. He cited bombings in the Middle East as more reason to remain vigilant.
"I have always said this is going to be a long war, not only a long war, a new kind of war," Bush said at a news conference with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search).
Bush welcomed Arroyo to a state dinner in the evening, partly to thank her for her support in the fight against terrorism.
"With your visit, the Philippines and the United States affirm our strong friendship, our common commitmemnt to fighting terror and our shared determination to promote freedom," Bush said in a toast opening the dinner. "When freedom comes under attack, our countries respond."
In the earlier news conference, Bush said homicide bombings in Israel over the weekend and on Monday may slow but would not halt efforts toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
"We're still on the road to peace. It's just going to be a bumpy road. And I'm not going to get off the road until we achieve the vision," Bush said.
The Philippines (search) have been a prime U.S. ally, both in fighting international terrorism and on postwar Iraq reconstruction. Bush said he was elevating the diplomatic status of the Philippines to that of a "major non-NATO ally" to afford greater access to U.S. military supplies and equipment. He also announced he would visit the island chain this fall.
"This is a vital alliance," Bush said.
Arroyo welcomed the added U.S. support and pledged to continue to fight Al Qaeda and its partner organizations in her part of the world. "Terrorism knows no borders," she said at the joint East Room news conference.
"What is important is that we work on it together and have a comprehensive approach, because terrorism will spread like a contagion, it will spread like SARS if we don't address the poverty that represents the breeding grounds for terrorism," Arroyo said, referring to the worldwide outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Bush claimed progress in the war on terror: "We are, slowly but surely dismantling the Al Qaeda operational network. But we've got a lot of work to do."
The president said the May 12 attacks on three housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, showed that "we've got to be diligent, that we've got to understand there's an Al Qaeda group still actively plotting to kill." The bombings, which killed 34 people, including eight Americans, have been linked to the terror network formed by Usama bin Laden.
As to bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, last Friday that killed 28 people, Bush said, "We're working on the clues ... to determine whether there's a direct connection between that Al Qaeda operation and what happened in Morocco. Time will tell.
"But the world is dangerous, which means that we've got to continue to renew these alliances and these friendships to make sure that we make the world more secure."
Bush called King Mohammed VI of Morocco, expressing his condolences for the deaths of Moroccan citizens in the attacks and commending the king on his leadership in the aftermath, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday evening. The United States offered Morocco help in its investigation, and an FBI team is on the ground, McCormack said.
He said he was upgrading the Philippines to the status of a "major non-NATO ally," a step that will foster closer military cooperation. Others with such a status are Egypt, Israel and Australia.
"By making the Philippines a non-NATO ally, that helps them in their struggle" against local terror groups with links to Al Qaeda and the Philippines' resurgent communist movement, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said later.
Bush also said there would soon be another deployment of U.S. forces to support Philippine-led anti-terrorism missions.
The president, asked a question linking terrorism in the Philippines to the nation's poverty, said he wanted to separate the two. "Let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers," he said.
"After all, a lot of the top Al Qaeda people were comfortable middle-class citizens. And so one of the things you've got to do is to make sure we distinguish between hate and poverty," Bush said.
The president considers a formal state visit a high honor, and has bestowed it on only the leaders of two other countries: Mexico and Poland.
The visit was seen as a payback for Arroyo's support in the fight against terrorism and for her pledge to send military police and medical officers to assist in Iraqi reconstruction.
Arroyo is also seeking duty-free privileges for Philippine products, such as dried mangoes, pineapple juice and tuna. And Arroyo wants to see Philippine businesses get reconstruction contracts in Iraq and is trying to lure U.S. companies to invest in operations on the islands.