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3/8/03 - DEMOCRACY IN THE ARAB WORLD - 2003-03-10

If the Arab world is to progress, it needs to address the region’s widespread limitations on personal and political freedom. That is the conclusion of the Arab Human Development report, written by thirty Arab intellectuals and issued in July 2002 by the United Nations Development Program. The report says that remedying this “freedom deficit” requires more political and economic liberty, respect for the rule of law and basic rights, the empowerment of women, and better education. The United States believes that many in the Arab world support these views.

As President George W. Bush said, “There are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle-East.” Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has proposed an Arab Charter that would call on Arab states to open up the political process, promote economic reform, and create a free trade zone. And, said President Bush, “from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politic[al] reform.” However, it is evident that the people of Iraq have not been able to share in this progress under the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. As President Bush said on March 4th, “A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.”

Success in Iraq, said President Bush, “could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state.” An Iraq without Saddam will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron who pays for terrorist training and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers.

As President Bush said, “Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for reform and. . . .democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders. . . .who strive for peace.”

Israel will also be involved in the Middle East peace effort. President Bush said that as the terror threat is reduced and security is improved, Israel “will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end.”

“Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken,” President Bush said, “if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred and violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and national reform, and reconciliation.”