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10/17/03 - RICE ON IRAQ AND THE MIDDLE EAST - 2003-10-17

The people of Iraq are free from the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. Iraqis are now working toward self-government.

Iraq’s rebirth may one day serve as an example for the region. As U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice says, “The building of a new Iraq provides a new opportunity for a different kind of Middle East”:

“Today, the twenty-two countries of this vital region have a combined population of three-hundred million, but a combined G-D-P [Gross Domestic Product] less than that of Spain. It is a region suffering from what leading Arab intellectuals call a political and economic ‘freedom deficit.’ And it is a region where hopelessness provides a fertile ground for ideologies that convince promising youths to aspire not to a university education, a career, or a family, but to blowing themselves up, taking as many lives with them as possible.”

The U.S. is working with people in the region who share a commitment to freedom. “A free, democratic, and successful Iraq,” says Ms. Rice, “can serve as a beacon and a catalyst”:

“And a free, successful Iraq can help create new momentum toward a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and set in motion progress toward the realization of the vision President Bush offered on June 24th, 2002: two states living side by side in peace and security.”

The refusal of extremists and others to renounce terrorism is now the main stumbling block for such a settlement. The Palestinian Authority continues to deny its responsibility for dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. Israel likewise has a responsibility to support the creation of a Palestinian state and end settlement activity.

“The Middle East,” says national security adviser Rice, “is a region of tremendous potential. Yet achieving real transformation...will require a commitment of many years.... We must remain patient.”