Bush tells U.N. 'all must fight the murderers'
President vows U.S. won't abandon Iraq, Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- President Bush stressed the importance of spreading freedom in the world and defended his decision to invade Iraq in a speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly.
"For decades the circle of liberty and security and development has been expanding in our world. This progress has brought unity to Europe, self-government to Latin America and Asia and new hope to Africa." Bush told the 59th session of the assembly.
"Now we have the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human freedom."
Making his fourth appearance before the General Assembly in the four years he has been in office, Bush said civilized nations had a responsibility to fight terrorism and said no justification existed for terrorist tactics. (Transcript)
He cited a number of recent attacks, including this month's killings of more than 300 people at a school in Beslan, Russia.
"Members of the United Nations, the Russian children did nothing to deserve such awful suffering and fright and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder," Bush said.
"These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers."
Bush said that the United States was determined to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and he discussed the decisions leading to the ousting of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"The Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning," Bush said.
"When we say serious consequences, for the sake of peace there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world."
He said the United States would not abandon Iraq and Afghanistan despite escalating violence against U.S. troops in those countries as elections approach. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi attended the session.
Bush called on the United Nations and its members to do more to support the new Iraqi government, noting that more than 35 countries have contributed "money and expertise to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure."
Following his speech, Bush met with Allawi, saying at a news conference afterward that he shared with him the confidence "that Iraq will be a free nation. And as a free nation, our world will be safer and America will be more secure."
Allawi praised Bush for the "courage [he] took in deciding to wage war to destroy Saddam," and said that despite news reports to the contrary "we are defeating terrorists."
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry told reporters in Florida that Bush "failed to level with the world's leaders" on Iraq.
"Moments after Kofi Annan, the [U.N.] secretary-general, talked about the difficulties in Iraq, the president of the United States stood before a stony-faced body and barely talked about the realities at all of Iraq," Kerry said.
He said Bush lectured the General Assembly members, "instead of leading them to understand how we are all together with a stake in the outcome of Iraq."
Kerry added, "I think this president has actually lost credibility with the international community."
In his wide-ranging speech, Bush challenged the government of Sudan to honor the cease-fire it signed in Darfur, where Janjaweed militias have killed 50,000 people and forced 1.2 million people from their homes. The United States has labeled the situation genocide.
Bush directed sharp comments to Israel and Palestinian leaders.
He said Israel should "impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, and end the daily humiliation of Palestinian people" as it tries to implement steps in the road map to peace.
Palestinian leaders must do their part as well, Bush said.
"Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption and maintain ties to terrorist groups," he said.
Bush called on world leaders to "withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause."
The president proposed the creation of a democracy fund to help countries lay the foundation of democracy, and said the United States would make an initial contribution to it.
Bush called the global fight against AIDS the "greatest health crisis of our time." He said the United States had launched a $15 billion effort to treat and prevent the spread of the disease.
He praised contributing countries for pledging $5.6 billion for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria projects in three years.
Bush noted his support for a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica that would ban human cloning.
"No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another," he said.
Annan warns rule of law at risk
In his address to the assembly before Bush's speech, Annan warned that the rule of law is at risk worldwide and urged heads of state present to revive their efforts to uphold it.
"Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded -- those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable -- especially children," Annan said.
Annan pointed to Iraq where "we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while relief workers, journalists and other noncombatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion."
"At the same time, we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused," Annan said, referring to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal involving U.S. troops.
Annan likewise cited the killings of thousands of people in Sudan's Darfur region.
"We see whole populations displaced and their homes destroyed, while rape is used as a deliberate strategy," Annan said.
He spoke about the targeting of Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers and "needless civilian casualties caused by Israel's excessive use of force."
"No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts," he said.
The secretary-general urged leaders to strengthen and implement existing disarmament treaties to defend against the "proliferation -- and potential use -- of weapons of mass destruction."