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Bush Challenges Any Change to His Version of Interrogation Law

  • VOA News

President Bush says Congress must pass his version of a law on interrogating terror suspects or the interrogations will end.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, Mr. Bush said US intelligence agents will refuse to interrogate prisoners if there are not clear rules in a law that sets high standards, not ambiguous ones.

The president framed the interrogation debate in stark terms as he battles the US Senate over how best to treat terror suspects and bring them to justice.

On Thursday, a Senate panel rejected his plan and approved a bill that would give prisoners more legal rights than the president wants.

The legislation was pushed by three key senators from the president's Republican party, including committee Chairman John Warner. It also has the support of Mr. Bush's first secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Powell argues that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis" of the fight against terrorism. President Bush today said that argument represents "flawed logic."

Warner hinted that a compromise remains possible, but he believes the White House approach will not meet constitutional standards outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court. A full Senate vote on the bill may come as early as next week.

President Bush favors a special military commission system that he authorized several years ago. It would deny the accused access to classified information used in the case. The Supreme Court found the president had overstepped his authority in creating the system. Mr. Bush turned to Congress for legislation allowing him to proceed with his plan.

The White House also does not want to be legally bound by the rules created for the humane treatment of prisoners as outlined in the Geneva Conventions, a treaty America has signed. At the same time, the Bush administration says it will follow the principles of the convention.

The showdown between President Bush and the Republican senators comes just before key November elections, with Republicans hoping to keep control of both houses of Congress. Mr. Bush made a personal visit to Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday. The House has approved a bill favored by the White House.

Democrats have accused Mr. Bush of focusing on terrorism to divert attention from the war in Iraq, with many Americans becoming increasingly opposed to U.S. involvement in Iraq.

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