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Bush Calls for Freedom of Expression in Beijing Ahead of Games

U.S. President George Bush has made another appeal for freedom of expression in China, hours ahead of the start of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Mr. Bush made the comment Friday during a dedication ceremony for a new U.S. embassy complex in the Chinese capital. He said societies that allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful.

The U.S. president also said the massive new embassy complex reflects the solid foundations of U.S.-China relations. He noted that China opened a new embassy complex of its own in Washington last week.

Chinese State Councilor and Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo participated in the Beijing ceremony. He called for China and the United States to properly manage their differences on sensitive issues.

Dai also recalled the role that former U.S. President George H.W. Bush played in normalizing relations nearly 30 years ago. The former president and other members of the Bush family attended the ceremony today.

The embassy complex was built at a cost of more than $434 million, and is the second largest construction project in the history of the U.S. State Department.

President Bush will meet later with Chinese President Hu Jintao ahead of the evening opening ceremony for the Olympics.

The U.S. president arrived in Beijing Thursday, hours after bluntly criticizing China's human rights record. China's foreign ministry responded by saying it opposes "any words or acts" that interfere in the country's internal affairs.

Human rights activists and some U.S. lawmakers have criticized Mr. Bush for his decision to attend the Olympics' opening ceremony. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged the president to relay U.S. human rights concerns to Chinese leaders while in Beijing. Mr. Bush met last week with Chinese dissidents at the White House.

Mr. Bush will be the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Olympics on foreign soil. He is expected to attend Olympic sporting events over the next few days.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.