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Bush Presses for Middle East Democracy


From left: George W. Bush, Laura Bush and Latvia's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga
President Bush, who has been hailing the advent of democracy in Eastern Europe, told an audience in Latvia, Saturday that free nations have a duty to help spread democracy in the Middle East. Mr. Bush says the next stage of the world democratic movement is already unfolding in the broader Middle East.

During a speech marking the end of World War II in Europe, President Bush says America is seeking democracy in the Middle East for the same reasons it spent decades working for democracy in Europe, because, he says, freedom is the only reliable path to peace.

"If the Middle East continues to simmer in anger and resentment and hopelessness, caught in a cycle of repression and radicalism, it will produce terrorism of even greater audacity and destructive power," said president Bush. "But if the peoples of that region gain the right of self-government, and find hopes to replace their hatreds, then the security of all free nations will be strengthened."

President Bush says those working for peace in the Middle East will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in what he calls "the vain pursuit of stability."

Mr. Bush says there is reason for optimism in the region, as what he calls "the rule of fear" gives way to the hope of change in both Afghanistan and Iraq. With elections set to begin later this month in Lebanon, the president says, that vote must go forward without outside interference. In Egypt, Mr. Bush says, this year's presidential election should have international monitors and rules that allow for a real campaign.

In the objective of spreading democracy in the Middle East, Mr. Bush, says brave reformers deserve more than praise.

"The established democracies have a duty to help the emerging democracies of the broader Middle East," he said. "They need our help, because freedom has deadly enemies in that region, men who celebrate murder, incite suicide and thirst for absolute power. By aiding democratic transitions, we will isolate the forces of hatred and terror, and defeat them before violence spreads."

As in other parts of the world, President Bush says, successful democracies in the broader Middle East must bridge old racial and religious divides, and, he says, democracy is the only force capable of doing so.