Susan Jones | Senior Editor | Thursday, February 23, 2006
He was referring to a golden-domed Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, Iraq, that was bombed on Wednesday -- apparently by terrorists who are intent on destabilizing Iraq.
The bombing of the al-Askari shrine and the destruction of its famous golden dome prompted a backlash of violence directed at Iraqi Sunnis. The eruption of sectarian violence has some people talking about all-out civil war in Iraq, something terrorists are trying to foment and the U.S.-led coalition is trying to prevent.
"We believe in freedom of worship," President Bush said on Thursday. And I understand the consternation and concern of the Iraqi Shias when they see this most holy site wantonly destroyed."
President Bush, speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, thanked the Iraqi leaders who have tried to calm the violence spawned by the mosque bombing. He said "voices of reason" understand that the bombing is a political act intended to create civil strife.
President Bush called it an "evil act," and he assured the Iraqi people that the U.S. government is serious in its commitment to help rebuild the "beautiful dome."
Ports and hurricanes
Asked about the controversy surrounding the Dubai ports deal - allowing a company owned by the United Arab Emirates to assume operation of terminals in six major U.S. ports -- President Bush said, "the more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."
Bush again called the U.A.E. a valuable ally, and he repeated his surprise that a British company was allowed to manage U.S. ports without comment, while an Arab ally is not.
He said his administration will continue to talk to members of Congress "and explain clearly why the decision was made."
Before taking questions from reporters, President Bush mentioned a report prepared by his administration, addressing government failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The "lessons learned" report -- and recommendations on how to respond to future natural disasters -- was prepared by Bush's homeland security advisor Fran Townsend.
"I wasn't satisfied with the federal response" to Katrina, Bush told reporters. He said he reminded his cabinet that hurricane season begins in June; and the president said he will be "tracking the implementation of the recommendations" contained in the report.
The Katrina report prepared by the White House includes 125 recommendations, 11 of which should be implemented before June 1, press reports said.
President Bush also repeated his "ongoing and robust" commitment to rebuild the Gulf Coast.
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