Security tightens worldwide
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Bush tells world to meet terror head-on as security tightens worldwide
WASHINGTON : US President George W. Bush urged the world to stand firm against terrorism as countries around the world tightened security amid fears of extremist attacks similar to the Madrid bombings.
"I think terrorists will kill innocent life in order to try to get the world to cower. I think -- these are cold-blooded killers. I mean, they'll kill innocent people to try to shake our will," Bush said.
"They have not only killed in Spain, they've killed in the United States, they've killed in Turkey, they've killed in Saudi Arabia. They kill wherever they can. And it's essential that the free world remain strong and resolute and determined," he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed Bush's words, telling the lower house of parliament that the world had a choice -- "to confront terrorism, or to be defeated by it".
In the wake of the Madrid train bombings that killed 201 last Thursday, Blair said the world faced "a war on our way of life, a war on our freedom".
He was speaking only a day after Britain's most senior police officer said London was a potential target.
"It is a war, it is a war on our way of life, a war on our freedom," he said, appealing for "the whole of the international community to stand firm" in confronting the likes of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
With first anniversary of the US and British invasion of Iraq coming up on Saturday, Blair said it was nonsense to think that a pull-out from Iraq would guarantee safety.
"The idea that if we were to give in over the issue of Iraq, that that would be the end of the matter as far as (terrorists) are concerned, is completely and hopeless naive," he said.
But in a setback to Bush and his allies Spain's prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected an appeal by Bush to keep Spanish troops in Iraq, and held fast to a pre-election pledge to withdraw the soldiers by June 30, barring any new "developments" in Iraq.
"I will listen to Mr Bush but my position is very clear and very firm," Zapatero told radio station Onda Cero. "The occupation (of Iraq) is a fiasco," he said.
Most US allies have said they will keep their forces in Iraq. But many have electorates opposed to the war and new polls show that a majority of Italians and Dutch want to follow the Spaniards' example.
Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes announced a series of reinforced security measures.
Ports, airports, sporting venues and the country's transport, communications and energy networks would all get extra police protection while the armed forces would boost surveillance of borders, the airspace, territorial waters and "sensitive installations", Acebes said.
Acebes also said Spain's investigation into the Madrid attacks was in a "decisive phase", as police reportedly hunted accomplices of a Moroccan suspect in custody.
"We have good leads but we have to stay discreet," Acebes told a news conference, without giving details.
Spanish media reports spoke of a police hunt in the Arab community in and north of Barcelona for possible accomplices of Jamal Zougam, a 30-year-old Moroccan among five people arrested on the weekend who is believed to have helped carry out the bombings.
Spanish police have arrested three Moroccans and two Indians suspected of involvement in the train bombings, which although initially blamed on armed Basque separatists ETA are increasingly seen as the work of Al-Qaeda.
South Korea and Australia, both US allies in Iraq, meanwhile took steps to increase their readiness against terrorist attacks.
Australia announced a funding boost worth 300 million US dollars to its frontline intelligence agencies after the Madrid bombings, and said it would launch next Monday its largest ever counter-terrorism exercise to test new defences against chemical and biological attack.
Acting South Korean President Goh Kun put his country on high alert against possible terrorist attack Wednesday, saying the country was among the main targets for attacks following the Madrid bombings.
"Those countries which have their troops stationed in Iraq have become main targets for terrorist attacks. South Korea, in some respects, is a country that should be on a high state of alert against terrorism," spokesman Kim Duck-Bong quoted Goh as saying.
South Korea plans to send 3,000 troops to take control of rehabilitation efforts in Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk next month. Spain currently has nearly 1,300 troops in Iraq.
Japan, which has also sent troops to Iraq, said it would they would more than double the number of officers deployed at major railway stations in Tokyo to 450 as part of measures to boost security.
Even France, which vehemently opposed the war in Iraq, was not safe as the Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin received a threat from a previously unknown group to attack the country over the government's controversial ban of Islamic headscarves in state schools.
Spain's neighbour Portugal, a vocal supporter of the invasion of Iraq, said it was not possible to be neutral when the choice was between democracy on the one hand and terrorism on the other.
"Portugal must have a global approach," said Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. "And to fight terrorism, we need allies," he added.