Middle East tops foreign policy agenda
Bush: Iran remains 'primary state sponsor of terror'
(CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday night reiterated his second-term commitments to win the war on terrorism, and spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East -- from Iraq to Israel to the Palestinian territories.
Speaking of terrorism, Bush said the United States and its allies have "confronted the enemy abroad with measures that are determined, successful and continuing," while acknowledging that al Qaeda's leaders remain at large.
Echoing a theme he struck in his second inaugural address, Bush linked U.S. security to the advance of freedom, particularly in the Middle East.
Pointing with pride to Iraq, Bush said the United States will succeed there, "because the Iraqi people value their own liberty, as they showed the world last Sunday," referring to the January 30 elections.
The president also said the elections have created a new political situation in Iraq, which "opens a new phase of our work in that country."
"We will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces -- forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure."
Bush added that "freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come."
In a not-so-subtle warning to Iran and North Korea, he warned that "there are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction -- but no longer without attention and without consequence."
"To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists."
The president singled out Iran as "the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons," while depriving its people of freedom.
He said the United States is working with European allies to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and "end its support for terror." And in directly addressing the Iranian people, Bush said, "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
The president answered critics who have assailed his administration for its go-it-alone tendency in foreign policy, and its alienation of many traditional U.S. allies, restating his litany of multinational commitments to American policy.
Bush said he has a "responsibility to future generations to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace, and added that, "the only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom."
But he said freedom alone will not eliminate war and terrorism.
"In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder," said Bush. "If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be a recruiting ground for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades."
Turning to the other most compelling conflict in the Middle East -- the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians -- Bush said "the beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure."
He said he is sending new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East on Thursday to discuss how the United States can help the Palestinians "end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent democratic state."
He said that to promote those goals he would ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic and security reforms.
That pledge underscored Bush's support for the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, elected last month to succeed the late Yasser Arafat.
The president also restated his support of a separate Palestinian state existing in peace with Israel.
"The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal," Bush said.