Bush Chides U.S. Allies In Mideast
In Speech, He Exhorts Move to Democracy
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2004; Page A01
ISTANBUL, June 29 -- President Bush criticized unnamed U.S. allies in the Middle East for compromising with extremists and suppressing dissent and called on the Islamic world to move toward democracy as a way to safeguard the United States and reduce violence in the Middle East.
Speaking in front of a waterfront mosque, Bush said that leaders throughout the Middle East, "including some friends of the United States, must recognize the direction of the events of the day. Any nation that compromises with violent extremists only emboldens them and invites future violence.
"Suppressing dissent only increases radicalism. The long-term stability of any government depends on being open to change and responsive to citizens."
Bush did not specify which U.S. allies he was referring to, but an aide and outside experts said that Saudi Arabia was among them. Some U.S. officials have accused the kingdom's government of not working hard enough to suppress al Qaeda cells within its borders.
Bush went on to praise Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation that became a secular state in 1924, as "a great and stable democracy, and America shares your hope that other nations will take this path."
Bush called a democratic transformation of the Middle East "one of the great and difficult tasks of history."
"Nations in the region will have greater stability because governments will have greater legitimacy," he said. "And nations like Turkey and America will be safer, because a hopeful Middle East will no longer produce ideologies and movements that seek to kill our citizens."
Bush offered no specific new proposals in his speech or details about how he planned to carry out previously announced visions to promote Middle Eastern democracy.
He spoke after leaving the closing session of a two-day NATO summit, where he listened as Afghanistan's U.S.-backed president, Hamid Karzai, said NATO needed to accelerate the deployment of additional troops in his country to secure elections scheduled for September. And the number of those troops, he said, needed to exceed the force already pledged. NATO said it would add 2,200 troops to its current force of 6,500 and keep 1,200 to 2,000 more on reserve outside the country.
"I would like you to please hurry . . . in Afghanistan: Come sooner than September," Karzai pleaded.
Bush's visit to Turkey was tense from beginning to end, with massive protests and security precautions wherever he went. One major breach of security was reported: A small bomb exploded Tuesday aboard a Turkish Airlines passenger jet parked at the Istanbul airport several hours after Bush had departed.
The device was concealed in a leather wallet left on the cabin floor near the door of the aircraft, which had arrived from the Turkish port of Izmir. The explosion injured three aircraft cleaners. There was no assertion of responsibility.
A major theme of Bush's speech was to encourage Iraq, a predominantly Muslim country where an interim government assumed power Monday, to develop a secular democracy that includes protections for minority religious groups. He called for similar changes in Iran and Syria.
"The rise of Iraqi democracy is bringing hope to reformers across the Middle East," he said. "A free and sovereign Iraq is a decisive defeat for extremists and terrorists, because their hateful ideology will lose its appeal in a free and tolerant and successful country."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company