Bush: US holds respect for Islam

US President George W. Bush said Wednesday that Americans hold a deep respect for the Islamic faith, which is professed a by a growing number of American citizens.

He made the remarks during his brief visit in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and home to several militant Muslim groups.

"We know that Islam is fully compatible with liberty and tolerance and progress because we see the proof in your country and in our own," he said at a press briefing in Bali aired by Jakarta-based Metro TV.

Indonesia is believed to be a home base for the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group. Police have arrested over 100 JI members for their role in the Bali bombings last October and the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta in August this year, of whom three have got death sentence.

"Terrorists who claim Islam as their inspiration defile one of the world's great faiths. Murders have no place in any religious tradition, (they) must find no home in Indonesia," he said.

He said he has exchanged views with five religious leaders, including leaders of Indonesia's largest Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhamadiyah, a Hindu cleric and a Roman Catholic priest.

During Bush's visit, a loud blast was heard in the city of Makassar and hundreds of people staged anti-Bush rally in Jakarta.

A local police officer has confirmed the blast was not caused by a bomb, but no further details were available.

Meanwhile, in the capital city Jakarta, hundreds of students and members of Islam-based Justice Party shouted anti-Bush slogans, burned US flags and called Bush a "terrorist."

Justice Party Chairman Hidayat Nurwahid criticized America for "oppressing the sovereignty of Indonesia" by refusing to return terror suspect Hambali to the Indonesian authorities.

The party's vice-chairman Suryama meanwhile said that Bush had used the issue of terrorism to intimidate Indonesia and its Muslim population in connection with the issue of terrorism.

US policy in the Middle East and the ongoing Iraqi crisis have triggered protests among many people in Indonesia, where nearly 90percent of the 215 million population are Muslims.

After his three-hour stopover in Bali, Bush departed to Australia for talks with Australian officials.

People's Daily Online --- http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/