WASHINGTON (AP) -- As part of a White House effort to reach out to Muslims, President Bush on Thursday celebrated a Ramadan break-the-fast meal to thank Muslim countries helping with war on terrorism.
"America treasures your friendship. America honors your faith," Bush told 50 representatives from Muslim nations and 24 American Muslim leaders gathered in the State Dining Room. "We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror, nations that are often victims of terror themselves."
During the monthlong Ramadan, which began Wednesday, believers abstain from all food, drink, smoking and other pleasures during daylight. Special dishes are served after prayers in the evening. It is the holiest time of the year for Muslims.
In attendance for the meal marking iftar -- the traditional breaking of the daylong fast -- were ambassadors and diplomats from throughout the Muslim world, including a number of Middle Eastern nations. Iraq, Iran and Libya did not send representatives.
With the war on terrorism continuing and Bush contemplating military action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Bush went out of his way to make clear that the effort is not directed at Islam, and to seek the support of Muslims at home and abroad.
"Our nation is waging a war on a radical network of terrorists, not on a religion and not on a civilization," Bush told the Muslim diplomats.
Relations between Bush and the American Muslim community have been on a roller-coaster ride. Recently, American Muslim leaders complained the president was ignoring them after courting their support in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks. But Bush met with several leaders on Sept. 10 during a visit to the Afghan embassy in Washington.
Earlier Thursday, Bush said "the risk of inaction is not a choice" even if war creates more anger throughout the Muslim world that translates into increased terrorist activity.
"That's like saying we should not go after al-Qaida because we might irritate somebody and that would create a danger to Americans," Bush said at a news conference.
The White House also highlighted other efforts to reach out to Muslims, including a newly reissued Eid stamp that commemorates the two most important festivals on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The president's official Ramadan greeting, released earlier this week, is being broadcast on Voice of America in eight languages.
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