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Bush: U.S. at war with 'Islamic fascists'

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President Bush said Thursday that some people still want to harm Americans "for what we believe in."

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday that an uncovered British terror plot to blow up planes flying to the United States was further proof "that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

Bush made a brief statement on the tarmac of the airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he traveled to tour a local factory and to attend a Republican fundraiser.

British authorities arrested at least 21 people suspected of planning to use liquid explosives to destroy as many as 10 jetliners. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the suspects were in the final stages of the plot. (Full Story)

"This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11," Bush said. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren't completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in."

Bush's use of the term "Islamic fascists" was criticized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"We believe that this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counterproductive to associate Islamic Muslims with fascism," the council's Executive Director Nihad Awad said at a Washington press conference.

"We ought to take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims...We urge him and we urge other public officials to restrain themselves," Awad said.

Bush said that cooperation between U.S. and British authorities was excellent and praised U.S. intelligence agencies for their role in the probe. (Watch as Bush praises British officials for "busting this plot -- 2:37)

"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America, and that is why we've given our officials the tools they need to protect our people," he said.

The White House said it was in close contact with Prime Minister Tony Blair and British authorities.

The president approved raising the color-coded threat level to red, or severe, for all flights leaving Britain for the United States and orange, or high, for all other flights.

Bush said that travelers would be inconvenienced by new flight restrictions, which include a ban on carrying liquids, lotions or gels onto airplanes.

"I urge their patience and ask them to be vigilant," he said. "The inconvenience occurs because we will take the steps necessary to protect the American people."

Congressional leaders said they had been briefed on the plot.

In a statement, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, described the plot as "extremely sophisticated and lethal" and "the biggest terrorist threat since the attacks of September 11, 2001." Collins is the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called for the administration to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said the plot shows that the Bush administration needs to rethink its Iraq policy, which the lawmaker said had diverted $300 billion from the war on terrorism and created a rallying cry among terrorists.

Reid's and Kerry's statements drew criticism from Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.

"On a day when American authorities are working with our allies to stop a global terror plot, instead of focusing on political attacks, we should focus on the fact that we are at war and need every tool to win the war on terror," Mehlman said, citing the pair's opposition earlier this year to renewing the Patriot Act and their calls to withdraw from Iraq.

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