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Inside Politics

Bush reinforces push for democracy

President calls Lebanon a critical test for Mideast reform


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pointing to progress from Lebanon to Afghanistan, President Bush on Tuesday defended his campaign to spread democracy, saying it can help stop terrorism around the world.

"We are confident that the desire for freedom, even when repressed for generations, is present in every human heart, and that desire can emerge with sudden power to change the course of history," Bush told an audience at the National Defense University.

"The trumpet of freedom has been sounded, and that trumpet never calls defeat." (Transcript)

The president used the speech to keep pressure on Syria -- to withdraw its troops from Lebanon -- and on Iran, which has been under international pressure to end any possible development of nuclear weapons.

He said Iran could take a lesson from Iraq.

"Iran and other nations have an example in Iraq, " Bush said. "The recent elections have begun a process of debate and coalition-building unique in Iraqi history and inspiring to see.

"The Iranian regime should listen to the concerns of the world and to the Iranian people, who want their liberty," he said. "We look forward to the day when the Iranian people are free."

The president pressed Syria to comply with a U.N. resolution and withdraw its troops from Lebanon, not merely redeploy them within the country. He said the complete withdrawal is necessary for upcoming elections to have legitimacy.

"The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559: All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before Lebanon's elections for those elections to be free and fair," Bush said.

Referring to massive demonstrations that began soon after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Bush praised the people of Lebanon. The protesters say that Syria is connected to the killing.

"All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon's great future belongs in your hands, and by your courage, Lebanon's future will be in your hands," Bush said. "The American people are on your side. ... Freedom will prevail in Lebanon."

While Bush spoke, tens of thousand of people were filling the streets of Beirut for a Hezbollah-organized rally, expressing support for the Syrian presence and demanding Washington and European powers stay out of Lebanon's affairs. Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim group that the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.

Progress cited in Mideast

Bush pledged to continue the fight against terrorism, calling it necessary to ensure security at home.

"Terrorists are less likely to endanger our security when they're worried about their security," he said.

"We will keep the terrorists on the run until they have nowhere left to hide."

He thanked allies from Pakistan to the Philippines for hunting down suspected terrorists and blocking their operations.

The president defended his push to bring democracy to regions of the world untouched by such values for decades or centuries.

Bush cited "remarkable" progress after decades of political stagnation in the region, noting the elections in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He also praised Saudi Arabia and Egypt for "small, but welcome" steps toward democracy.

Bush suggested that solidifying and advancing those political gains is a "generational challenge" and critical to progress in the war on terror.

"For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East," he said.

Before the speech, Bush had telephone conversations with French President Jacques Chirac and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to discuss efforts to pressure Syria as well as other political developments in the region, U.S. officials said.


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