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Middle East Needs Freedom


President George W. Bush said a new era is unfolding in the Middle East:

"This new era is founded on the equality of all people before God. This new era is being built with the understanding that power is a trust that must be exercised with the consent of the governed -- and deliver equal justice under the law. And this new era offers hope for the millions across the Middle East who yearn for a future of peace and progress and opportunity."

Mr. Bush made these comments in a speech in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates, or U-A-E, has made economic and political progress. It has opened its doors to international trade, and women now hold significant government posts. The country has also held elections for its Federal National Council. Moreover, the U-A-E is demonstrating tolerance toward minority religions. But these advances are threatened by Islamic extremists, said President Bush:

"[Extremists] hate freedom and they hate democracy -- because it fosters religious tolerance and allows people to chart their own future. They hate [the U-A-E] government because it does not share their dark vision. They hate the United States because they know we stand with you in opposition to their brutal ambitions. And everywhere they go, they use murder and fear to foment instability to advance their aims."

The fight against the forces of extremism, said President Bush, "is the great ideological struggle of our time." But free nations have a weapon more powerful than bombs or bullets. It is the desire for freedom and justice. Twelve-million Iraqis demonstrated this desire when they defied al-Qaida to vote. This spirit was also in evidence when thousands of Lebanese protested in favor of ending the Syrian occupation of their country. And every day dissidents and journalists in countries like Iran dare to speak out against oppression and injustice.

The United States supports the cause of freedom in the Middle East. "We hear your cries for justice," said President Bush. "We share your desire for a free and prosperous future. And as you struggle to find your voice and make your way in this world, the United States will stand with you."

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