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Transcript: Bush's Remarks on Conflicts in the Middle East

It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government and the rule of law.

BUSH: And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy. And that demands the full participation of women.

(APPLAUSE)

The advance of hope in the Middle East also requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies, including Washington, D.C.

By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny in the pursuit of stability have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy.

It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors.

It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies.

And our duty is now clear: 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.

Encouraging democracy in that region is a generational commitment. It's also a difficult commitment, demanding patience and resolve when the headlines are good and when the headlines aren't so good.

Freedom has determined enemies who show no mercy for the innocent and no respect for the rules of warfare.

Many societies in the region struggle with poverty and illiteracy. Many rulers in the region have long-standing habits of control. Many people in the region have deeply ingrained habits of fear.

For all of these reasons, 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.

The people of Afghanistan have embraced free government after suffering under one of the most backward tyrannies on Earth.

The voters in Iraq defied threats of murder and have set their country on a path to full democracy.

The people of the Palestinian territories cast their ballots against violence and corruption of the past.

And any who doubt the appeal of freedom in the Middle East can look to Lebanon, where the Lebanese people are demanding a free and independent nation.

BUSH: In the words of one Lebanese observer, "Democracy is knocking at the door of this country. And if it's successful in Lebanon, it is going to ring the doors of every Arab regime."

Across the Middle East, a critical mass of events is taking that region in a hopeful new direction. Historic changes have many causes, yet these changes have one factor in common. A businessmen in Beirut recently said, "We have removed the mask of fear. We're not afraid anymore."

Pervasive fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime, the prop that holds up all power not based on consent. And when the regime of fear is broken and the people find their courage and find their voice, democracy is their goal and tyrants themselves have reason to fear.

(APPLAUSE)

History is moving quickly and leaders in the Middle East have important choices to make.

The world community, including Russia and Germany and France and Saudi Arabia and the United States, has presented the Syrian government with one of those choices: to end its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon or become even more isolated from the world.

The Lebanese people have heard the speech by the Syrian president. They've seen these delaying tactics and half measures before.

The time has come for Syria to fully implement Security Council Resolution 1559. All Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections for those elections to be free and fair.

(APPLAUSE)

The elections in Lebanon must be fully and carefully monitored by international observers.

The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring free of intimidation.

BUSH: And that new government will have the help of the international community in building sound political, economic and military institutions so the great nation of Lebanon can move forward in security and freedom.

(APPLAUSE)

Today I have a message for the people of Lebanon: All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon's future belongs in your hands. And by your courage Lebanon's future will be in your hands.


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