-

SALT LAKE CITY - The United States is fighting "a new type of facism," US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a veterans' group here Tuesday.

"We face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising of a new type of fascism," he said.

"And that is important in this 'long war' where any kind of moral and intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere," he said, taking aim at detractors of the US "war on terror".

The Pentagon chief was echoing comments earlier this month by President George W. Bush, after the British thwarted an alleged plot to bomb passenger jets heading for the United States, that the country was "at war with Islamic fascists".

Rumsfeld used the same terminology Monday when addressing a similar group in Reno, Nevada about the need to be patient in Iraq.

"Today we will not tell 50 million Afghans and Iraqis that because the going is tough -- and it is tough, let there be no doubt -- that we will abandon them to the beheaders, the terrorists, the assassins, and 21st century fascists who seek to attack us abroad and here at home," Rumseld told the Veterans of Foreign Wars association.

"History has shown time and again that if Americans have the patience and the perseverance to see an effort through -- no matter how hard or how difficult -- that we prevail," he said, adding that the goal now was "a safer and more secure world."

Despite its unpopularity among voters, the Iraq War remains a key campaign issue for the Republicans of President George W. Bush in the upcoming November legislative elections.

08/29/2006 18:17 GMT

Copyright © 2006