Bremer says his criticism of Bush on terror unfair

1.00pm

BAGHDAD - US Governor of Iraq Paul Bremer said on Sunday his past criticism of President George W Bush for being slow to implement anti-terror measures was unfair.

Bremer said in a speech six months before the September 11 attacks in 2001 that the Bush administration seemed to be ignoring the problem of terrorism and would "stagger along" until a major incident.

Details of the speech came to light last week as Bush answered questions from the independent commission investigating the September 11 suicide hijackings.

However, Bremer said on Sunday his remarks had been unjust.

"My statement in February 2001 reflected my frustration that in the nine months following the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorism, none had been implemented by the Clinton administration nor by the newly elected Bush administration," he said in a statement.

"Criticism of the new administration, however, was unfair. President Bush had just been sworn into office and could not reasonably be held responsible for the Federal Government's inaction over the preceding seven months.

"I regret any suggestion to the contrary. In fact, I have since learned that President Bush had shared some of these frustrations, and had initiated a more direct and comprehensive approach to confronting terrorism consistent with the threats outlined in the National Commission report."

Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network was blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 3000 people.

Former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has argued that the Bush administration failed to heed his warnings that al Qaeda was an urgent priority, a charge rejected by the administration.

Bremer said he was "strongly supportive and grateful for the president's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security".

- REUTERS

Herald Feature: September 11

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