Flashback to 2003: Bush demands Mid-East democracy

President George W Bush has deplored the "freedom deficit" in the Middle East and said the United States must remain focused on the region "for decades".

"Our commitment to democracy is being tested in the Middle East," he said in a televised Washington speech in defence of US democracy.

Mr Bush said dictators in Iraq and Syria had "left a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin".

Turning to Iran, he warned that "the regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy"


Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 18:44 GMT
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Bush demands Mid-East democracy
US President George W Bush
Bush: Tough message for Middle East leaders

President George W Bush has deplored the "freedom deficit" in the Middle East and said the United States must remain focused on the region "for decades".

"Our commitment to democracy is being tested in the Middle East," he said in a televised Washington speech in defence of US democracy.

Mr Bush said dictators in Iraq and Syria had "left a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin".

Turning to Iran, he warned that "the regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy".

But some governments in the region were "beginning to see the need for change", he said, citing Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Yemen.

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe."

He also stressed that "Islam is consistent with democratic rule" in his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington.

He said that to say Islam and democracy were incompatible was "cultural condescension".

The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington says the speech may come to be seen as a defining moment in the Bush presidency.

Mr Bush compared his drive for global democracy with the legacy of his Republican predecessor Ronald Reagan, whose tough stance against communism helped democracy to take root in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. .....

the rest of the flashback:
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3248119.stm