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Inside Politics

Bush: Freedom on the march
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Noting the "remarkable developments" spreading from Cairo to Kabul, President Bush said Saturday that "the trend is clear: In the Middle East and throughout the world, freedom is on the march."

Speaking in his weekly radio address, Bush cited examples of progress in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

He pointed to the massive pro-democracy demonstrations in the Lebanese capital of Beirut after the assassination recently of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"Lebanese citizens who have watched free elections in Iraq are now demanding the right to decide their own destiny, free of Syrian control and domination.

"Syria has been an occupying force in Lebanon for nearly three decades, and Syria's support for terrorism remains a key obstacle to peace in the broader Middle East."

Bush said the British, French and German leaders also have called for Syrian troops to depart Lebanon.

The United States and France worked closely to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for the withdrawal of "all foreign forces" from Lebanon, the president said. Also it says "that free and fair elections" expected to be held this spring "be conducted without foreign influence," Bush said.

"The world is now speaking with one voice to ensure that democracy and freedom are given a chance to flourish in Lebanon," the president said.

Bush said the government of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is on the hunt for the bombers who launched the recent terror attack in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

"Such action is critical, because that attack is a reminder that there are still groups and individuals who will kill to prevent peace in the Middle East," Bush said.

And, he said "the first reform" in that area "must be the dismantling of terrorist organizations. Only by ending terrorism can we achieve our common goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and freedom."

Bush said, "people in a long-troubled part of the world are standing up for their freedom."

"In the last five months, we have witnessed successful elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territory and Iraq; peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut; and steps toward democratic reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia."

Bush said the United States, Europe and "our Arab partners must all continue the hard work of defeating terrorism and supporting democratic reforms."

"Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul, and spreading freedom's blessings is the calling of our time. And when freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful."

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