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Laura Bush Praises Hungarian Women - 2002-05-17

The first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, is in Budapest for a three-day visit as she continues her European tour. Mrs. Bush thanked Hungary for its active role in the U.S.-led anti-terrorist campaign. She also urged Hungarian women to play a more active role in the country's post-Communist era.

The first lady Laura Bush attended a luncheon, spiced by paprika and Hungarian music, in honor of about 60 Hungarian women leaders.

Speaking at a Budapest restaurant that is entirely run by women, Mrs. Bush praised the efforts of her audience to create a new society in Hungary, following the collapse of the Soviet-led communist regime more than 10 years ago.

"And now the women in this room will continue to lead the way toward making women full partners in this vibrant new society you are creating," she said. "Ten years ago, most of the leaders in all aspects of Hungarian life, from government to business, were men. Today women are increasingly assuming leadership roles. You are discovering, as the United States has over its history, that a society is most free, most prosperous, most dynamic when all of its members fully participate."

Mrs. Bush noted that on the eve of her visit to Hungary, this country's parliament elected its first ever female speaker. She described this as an important development in post Communist Hungary, a relative new NATO member which she said "is poised" to join the European Union, possible in 2004.

The first U.S. lady said she hopes that other countries with formerly oppressive regimes, will follow Hungary's example and include women in leading positions. Mrs. Bush mentioned especially the woman of Afghanistan, who suffered years of hardship under the Taleban regime.

Mrs. Bush is expected to talk about this issue again during her next stop in Prague, Czech republic from where she delivers a broadcast to the Afghan people.

She also thanked Hungary for its active role in the U.S. led campaign to oust the suppressed regime of Taleban in Afghanistan.

"Today, thanks to the United States and Hungary and all our coalition partners, the women of Afghanistan have new freedom and new reason to hope," said Mrs. Bush. "The boys and girls of Afghanistan have started school - many of the little girls for the first time in their lives."

In her earlier talks with Hungarian President Ferenc Madl, Mrs. Bush praised Hungary for allowing U.S. peacekeepers operating in the Balkans to be based in Hungary. The stationing of American soldiers on Hungarian soil would have been unthinkable over a decade ago, when Hungary was a Soviet satellite state occupied by Russian troops.