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Bush Address Designed to Send Strong International Message - 2004-01-21

A senior Bush administration official says the president's State of the Union address sends a strong message to countries that are still seeking weapons of mass destruction, but also offers them an opportunity to change and develop better relations with the United States.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Jim Wilkinson told reporters a main point of the president's State of the Union address was designed to send an international message. Mr. Wilkinson says the nations of the world have the option of trying to develop weapons of mass destruction or voluntarily disarming, as Libya has offered to do. He says there should be no doubt about America's resolve after the war against Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

"What his policy says is that regimes have a choice. They can choose to pursue weapons of mass destruction at great peril, at great expense. Clearly, Saddam Hussein it was at certainly his regime's peril, his pursuit of WMD. So, they can choose that path," says Mr. Wilkinson. "They can pursue weapons or they can choose a path to potential better relations with both the United States and the world. But the clear message that the world is receiving, and I think the president said it best, diplomacy only works when people know words count."

Mr. Wilkinson - a deputy assistant to President Bush - highlighted the proposal in the State of the Union to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Mr. Wilkinson says the new money, about $40 million, will promote human rights, religious tolerance, free elections and freedom of the press in the Middle East. "If you look through history, and this is an important point I think, and it goes back to Saddam Hussein, Hitler and other regimes. If you look at the history of, frankly, all civilizations, civilizations that limit your rights as reporters to cover and see with the full sunshine of what is going on," he says. "Any civilization that does that or any civilization that doesn't allow free press, if you look at the lives of the citizens you typically find murder, and rape, certainly no freedoms."

Mr. Wilkinson says Mr. Bush's speech renews America's long-term commitments to rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. He says Mr. Bush is confident that democratic governments can rule in those countries that, for so long, have been dominated by conflict and violence.