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Trump defends Muslim immigration vetting, says move will ‘protect U.S from terrorists’

People participate in a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Washington: Defending his travel ban on certain Muslim-majority nations which invoked massive outrage and confusion across the globe, President Donald Trump insisted that his decision would protect the United States from terrorists.

“U.S. would continue showing compassion to those fleeing oppression. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say,” Trump said in a statement, CNN reports.

He pushed back on criticism suggesting his executive order amounts to the “Muslim ban” he proposed as a candidate.

Trump made it clear that the move was not a Muslim ban, and asserted that it was not about religion and that it was about terror and keeping America safe.

The statement is the latest attempt by Trump’s White House to explain the controversial order, which the President signed at the Pentagon on Friday.

The move halted US refugee entry into the US for 120 days, and barred all citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US for three months.

Trump cast the move as in line with the previous administration’s moves to combat terrorism, writing: “My policy is similar to what President (Barack) Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.”

Trump, in his statement Sunday, wrote those countries “are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”

Trump said the US would “again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”

“I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering,” he wrote in his statement. (ANI)