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Bush, Yushchenko Hail Shared Commitment to Democracy

Ukraine's President Yushchenko(left) with President Bush and their wives
President Bush and Ukrainian President Viktor say they will work together to promote democracy, even as Ukraine begins to withdraw troops from Iraq. Mr. Bush held discussions with his Ukrainian counterpart at the White House.

By year's end, Ukraine's 1,600 troops are expected home from Iraq, fulfilling a pledge Viktor Yushchenko made during his presidential campaign.

At a joint news conference, President Bush expressed no disappointment with the withdrawal, opting instead to thank Ukraine for sacrifices made. "I appreciate the contribution that the Ukrainian people have made toward liberating Iraq, helping provide stability in Iraq, and providing security for the elections in Iraq. The president made clear to me in my first conversation with him that he campaigned on the idea of bringing some troops out. He is fulfilling a campaign pledge, I fully understand that," he said.

This was the second encounter between the two leaders, who met earlier this year at a NATO summit in Brussels. Mr. Bush said he supports Ukraine's eventual membership in NATO, and would like to see Ukraine join the World Trade Organization. He also promised to press for a lifting of U.S. trade restrictions on Ukraine.

President Yushchenko said his country faces hurdles as it consolidates democracy. He spoke through a translator. "We are talking about a country where the number one problem remains to be corruption. We are talking about the country where poverty remains a huge problem. However, it is very important, Mr. President, to feel that we have partners standing by. That we are not left in solitude coping with these troubles," he said.

Mr. Yushchenko pledged to expand freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

President Bush said he is asking Congress for $60 million to help support reform efforts in Ukraine. He suggested that Ukraine's tumultuous, protest-laden election cycle can serve as an example to other nations where people are eager to embrace democracy. "We share a goal to spread freedom to other nations. After all, the Orange Revolution may have looked like it was only a part of the history of Ukraine, but the Orange Revolution represented revolutions elsewhere, as well," he said.

Mr. Bush said he and his Ukrainian counterpart have roles to play in promoting democracy and freedom in Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, and in resolving conflicts in Moldova and Georgia.