President Bush says freedom will prevail in Lebanon as he repeated calls for Syria to withdraw its troops from the country. The appeal came as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Lebanon gathered to show their support for Syria.
President Bush says leaders in the Middle East have important choices to make because history is moving quickly.
He says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is facing the choice of either ending Syria's occupation of Lebanon or becoming even more isolated in the world community. It is a choice that Mr. Bush says is not only being presented by the United States, but by Russia, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia as well.
President Bush wants a complete withdrawal of all Syrian troops and intelligence personnel. In a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, he made clear he is not satisfied with the Syrian leader's promise to re-deploy its troops closer to the Syrian border.
"The Lebanese people have heard the speech by the Syrian president," he said. "They have 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."
President Bush says Lebanese have the right to choose their own parliament in May elections free from intimidation or domination by a foreign power.
Mr. Bush said the new government in Beirut will have the help of the international community in building sound political, economic, and military institutions so Lebanon can move forward in security and freedom.
In what he called a message to the Lebanese people, President Bush said all the world is witnessing a great movement of conscience.
"Lebanon's future belongs in your hands. And by your courage, Lebanon's future will be in your hands," he said. "The American people are on your side. Millions across the earth are on your side. The momentum of freedom is on your side, and freedom will prevail in Lebanon."
President Bush says Syria has a long history of supporting terrorism, including he says the recent bombing in Tel Aviv. With what he calls every possibility that Syria will try that strategy again, Mr. Bush called for both Syria and Iran to stop using murder as a tool of policy.
Pressure on Damascus has grown with nearly three weeks of anti-Syrian protests following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Opposition politicians in Lebanon blame Syria for the killing. Both Damascus and the pro-Syrian government in Beirut deny involvement.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators swarmed the Lebanese capital Tuesday in support of Syria. The rally was organized by the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned the Untied States not to interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs.