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Bush Promotes Freedom Agenda

U.S. President George Bush is promoting his freedom agenda, and urging his successor to do the same. As VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports, Mr. Bush used a speech at the headquarters of the government's foreign aid agency to talk about the future.

With his time in office drawing to a close, Mr. Bush used his speech to offer some advice to the next president of the United States.

He did not go into the politics of the race for his successor, nor did he mention any candidate by name.

Instead, he tried to stay above politics and focus on a cause he has championed during his tenure at the White House: the drive to promote freedom around the world.

"The challenge for America is the years ahead is to continue to help people in struggling nations achieve freedom from corruption, freedom from disease, freedom from poverty, freedom from hunger and freedom from tyranny," he said.

Mr. Bush says the next president - and the next Congress - must combat hopelessness in struggling nations, saying it is both a moral and security imperative.

"Combating hopelessness is in America's security interests because the only way our enemies can recruit people to their dark ideology is to exploit distress and despair," he said.

Mr. Bush says battling disease and hunger must continue to be a priority. He urges steps to boost trade as a way to combat poverty. And he stresses America must always lead the fight for human rights.

"In the past seven years we have spoken out against human rights abuses by tyrannical regimes like those in Iran, Sudan, and Syria and Zimbabwe. We have spoken candidly about human rights with nations with whom we have good relations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and China," he said.

In his speech to employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Bush once again called for the release of prisoners of conscience around the world - such as Burmese Nobel Laureate and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said even now, there are stirrings for change in places like Havana, Tehran, and Damascus. And he emphasized those involved in the struggle for freedom must know they are not alone.

"America hears you," he said. "Millions of our citizens stand with you. And hope still lives, even in bleak places and in dark moments."

The president's speech came in the midst of a foreign tour by the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the timing is a coincidence, and that Mr. Bush's remarks were designed to mark Captive Nation's Week - an annual observance that began during the days of the Soviet Union to press for freedom for nations then behind the so-called Iron Curtain.