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Mideast Freedom On The March

From Lebanon to Afghanistan, says President George W. Bush, democracy is on the march across the broader Middle East. "The trumpet of freedom has been sounded," he said, "and that trumpet never calls defeat:"

"By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of a discredited past. It should be clear that free nations escape stagnation and grow stronger with time because they encourage the creativity and enterprise of their people. It should be clear that economic progress requires political modernization, including honest representative government, and the rule of law. And it should be clear that no society can advance with only half of its talent and energy, and that demands the full participation of women."

In recent months, elections have been held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories. Egypt's upper house of parliament has approved a constitutional amendment that would allow the first multi-candidate presidential election. And Saudi Arabia has taken a tentative step by holding the first in a series of municipal elections. It is up to the nations of the world, said Mr. Bush, to support this historic progress:

"By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny in the pursuit of stability have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy. It should be clear that the advance of democracy leads to peace because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear that the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: for the sake of our own security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East."

Now, it is occupied Lebanon that must be allowed to benefit from that transformation. Syria, said President Bush, must pull its troops out of Lebanon so free elections can be held in April. Referring to the massive demonstrations that began soon after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Mr. Bush said, "All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience. Lebanon's great future belongs in your hands, and by your courage, Lebanon's future will be in your hands. . . .Freedom will prevail in Lebanon."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.