WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush regrets using the word "crusade," with all its historical connotations of religious war, to describe his campaign against terrorists, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Bush only meant to say that his is a "broad cause" to stamp out terrorism worldwide, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
"I think to the degree that that word has any connotations that would upset any of our partners or anybody else in the world, the president would regret if anything like that was conveyed. But the purpose of his conveying it is in the traditional English sense of the word, it's a broad cause," said Fleischer.
On Sunday, Bush had told reporters: "This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."
With that comment, he stoked suspicion in some Arab and Muslim quarters where crusade is a loaded term that recalls the Christians' medieval wars against Muslims in the Holy Land.
Bush is trying to rally Arab nations to join an international coalition against the perpetrators of last week's twin terrorist strikes in New York and Washington.
"I think what the president was saying had no intended consequences for anybody, Muslim or otherwise, other than to say that this is a broad cause that he is calling on America and the nations around the world to join," Fleischer said.