Newsday.com - Politics
President praises Middle East changes
LOS ANGELES TIMES
March 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - Declaring that "clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun" that will allow democratic reforms in the Middle East, President George W. Bush yesterday praised what he called new signs of change in the region while heightening pressure on Syria to end its years-long occupation of Lebanon.
"By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future. It is the last gasp of a discredited past," Bush said during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington.
The president also spoke broadly about the prospects for the advance of democracy in the Middle East. He likened the developments in Lebanon to the recent elections in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories and to the apparent new openness to democratic reforms by the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Bush also accused Syria and Iran of continuing to support terrorism and said Iran and other nations should view the Iraq elections as an "example," seemingly inviting Iranians to rise up against the government.
His remarks marked his first formal foreign policy speech since he declared in his Jan. 20 inaugural address a sweeping U.S. doctrine to "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture."
The president stopped short of taking credit for the changes. He said change in the region required patience, given the entrenchment of tyrants and "deeply ingrained habits of fear" that persist among the people.
"For all of these reasons," he said, "the chances of democratic progress in the broader Middle East have seemed frozen in place for decades. Yet at last, clearly and suddenly, the thaw has begun."
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