Earlier today, President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly and spoke about a more hopeful world beyond terror and extremism - where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, the voices of moderation are empowered, and the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority.
Bush said the principles animating this future are in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' statement that the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." In the nearly six decades since that document was approved, we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents.
- Some of the changes in the broader Middle East have been dramatic - more than 50 million people have been given a voice in the UN for the first time in decades. Afghanistan's seat in the UN is now held by the freely elected government of Afghanistan. Iraq's seat in the UN is now held by a democratic government that embodies the aspirations of the Iraqi people.
- Some of the changes in the Middle East are happening gradually, but these changes are real. Algeria has held its first competitive presidential election, and the military remained neutral. The UAE recently announced that half the seats in its Federal National Council will be chosen by elections. Kuwait held elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time. Citizens have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, in parliamentary elections in Jordan and Bahrain, and in multiparty presidential elections in Yemen and Egypt.
Obviously, many have argued that these democratic changes are destabilizing the Middle East - but as he has said before, Bush said the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage. For decades, millions of men and women in this region have been trapped in oppression and hopelessness. These conditions left a generation disillusioned and made the region a breeding ground for extremism. He called on every civilized nation - including those in the Muslim world - to support those in the region who are offering a more hopeful alternative.
Bush spoke directly to people across the broader Middle East and said clearly: America desires peace.
- To the people of Iraq: We will not abandon you. Nearly 12 million Iraqis braved the car bombers and assassins last December to vote in free elections, and we will not abandon you in your struggle to build a free nation. America and its coalition partners will continue to stand with Iraq's democratic government, help secure the international assistance and investment Iraq needs to create jobs and opportunity, and train Iraqis who have stepped forward to fight the enemies of freedom. In return, Iraq's leaders must make the difficult choices to bring security and prosperity.
- To the people of Afghanistan: We will help you defeat the extremists who want to destroy Afghanistan's young democracy. Since overthrowing the Taliban, Afghanistan has chosen its leaders in free elections and built a democratic government. Today, forces from more than 40 countries - including members of the NATO Alliance - are bravely serving side by side with the people of Afghanistan against the extremists. We will help you defeat these enemies and build a free Afghanistan that will never again oppress you or be a safe haven for terrorists.
- To the people of Lebanon: We see your suffering, and the world is helping you rebuild your country and deal with the armed extremists who are undermining your democracy by acting as a state within a state. Last year, the people of Lebanon inspired the world when they drove Syrian forces from their country and re-established democracy. Since then, they have been tested by the fighting that began with Hezbollah's unprovoked attacks on Israel. The UN has passed a good resolution that has authorized an international force, led by France and Italy, to help restore Lebanese sovereignty over Lebanese soil. For many years, Lebanon was a model of democracy, pluralism, and openness in the region - and it will be again.
- To the people of Iran: The United States respects you and your country. The greatest obstacle to a better future for Iran is that its rulers have chosen to deny the people of Iran liberty and use their nation's resources to fund terrorists, fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The UN has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. The world has no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We are working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis, and we look to the day when the people of Iran can live in freedom - and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.
- To the people of Syria: Your government must choose a better way forward. Syria is home to a great people with a proud tradition of learning and commerce. Today, Syria's rulers have allowed the country to become a crossroad for terrorists, and are turning the country into a tool of Iran, increasing Syria's isolation from the world. Syria's government can stop this growing isolation and create a more hopeful future for its country by ending its support for terror, living in peace with its neighbors, and opening the way to a better life for the Syrian people.
Near the end of the speech, Bush spent a good deal of time focusing on peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that by supporting the forces of democracy and moderation, the world can help Israelis and Palestinians build a more hopeful future and achieve peace.
- Bush declared that President Abbas is committed to peace and to his people's aspirations for a state of their own and PM Olmert is also committed to peace and has said he intends to meet with President Abbas to make real progress on the outstanding issues between them.
- Bush continues to wait for Hamas to implement their platform of ending corruption and improving the lives of the Palestinian peole. The world has sent a clear message to the leaders of Hamas: Serve the interests of the Palestinian people, abandon terror, recognize Israel, honor agreements, and work for peace.
- Bush has directed Secretary Rice to lead a diplomatic effort to engage moderate leaders across the region, help the Palestinians reform their security services, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to come together to resolve their differences. British PM Tony Blair has indicated that Britain will work with partners in Europe to help strengthen the governing institutions of an effective Palestinian administration. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt have made clear they are willing to contribute the diplomatic and financial assistance necessary to help these efforts succeed.