WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) US President George W Bush condemned the bombing of a major Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Iraq today but appealed to Iraqis for restraint amid sectarian reprisals that fueled fears of civil war.
''The terrorists in Iraq have again proven that they are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity,'' Bush said in a statement after the dawn attack that devastated the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines.
Bush called the bombing a ''cowardly act'' and a ''senseless crime,'' and also promised U.S. help to track down those responsible for the bombing and to repair the shrine. Three Sunni clerics were among six people killed at 27 Sunni mosques in Baghdad hit in revenge attacks.
''I ask all Iraqis to exercise restraint in the wake of this tragedy, and to pursue justice in accordance with the laws and constitution of Iraq. Violence will only contribute to what the terrorists sought to achieve by this act,'' Bush said.
The United States, seeking to control sectarian strife that could make it harder to bring its troops home, has pressured leaders of the Shi'ite majority who dominate Iraq's government to bring in Sunnis after the rebellious minority took part in a December election.
A Sunni insurgency has killed thousands of Iraqis since a US-led invasion toppled former President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Reuters PDS VP0156