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President Bush’s U.N. Speech Focuses on Mideast Reform

In his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, President Bush said the United States wants to support democratic reform in the Mideast and is not against Islam. Leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee discuss the speech.

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    President Bush pressed his agenda for spreading democracy in the Middle East today with world leaders gathered in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

    Beginning this morning, Mr. Bush met with French President Jacques Chirac, who said the two countries agreed on a timetable for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. But later in the day, Chirac said he opposed setting a deadline for sanctions.

    In his midday speech to the General Assembly, President Bush largely avoided confrontation and focused on building bridges in the Middle East.


    Our country desires peace. Extremists in your midsts spread propaganda, claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror.

    We respect Islam. But we will protect our people from those who pervert Islam to sow death and destruction. Our goal is to help you build a more tolerant and hopeful society that honors people of all faiths and promotes the peace.

    America has made its choice: We will stand with the moderates and reformers.


    The president also spoke directly to the Iranian people. Their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was not in the hall during Mr. Bush's speech and also skipped a luncheon for world leaders because wine was being served. The Iranian leader was scheduled to speak this evening.


    The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

    Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.


    The president addressed the Syrian people as he chastised their government.


    Today your rulers have allowed your country to become a crossroad for terrorism. In your midst, Hamas and Hezbollah are working to destabilize the region. And your government is turning your country into a tool of Iran. This is increasing your country's isolation from the world.


    As he'd promised, Mr. Bush again pressed the government of Sudan to end the violence and killing in Darfur.


    The Security Council has approved a resolution that would transform the African Union force into a blue-helmeted force that is larger and more robust. To increase its strength and effectiveness, NATO nations should provide logistics and other support.

    The regime in Khartoum is stopping the deployment of this force. If the Sudanese government does not approve this peacekeeping force quickly, the United Nations must act. Your lives and the credibility of the United Nations is at stake.


    The president repeated his support for the efforts of Afghanistan and Iraq to create democratic governments. As Mr. Bush urged world leaders to stand with him in Iraq, members of a recently created advisory group in Washington spoke publicly for the first time about news reports they were preparing to offer Mr. Bush an exit strategy from Iraq that he was not getting from his own advisers.

  • JAMES BAKER, Co-Chair, Iraq Study Group:

    Our obligation is to present our report first to the president and the Congress and then to the public.


    Former Secretary of State James Baker and former 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton head the Iraq Study Group, an independent, bipartisan commission of experts formed last March at the request of Congress. The group presented no recommendations today but said they will after the midterm elections.

    However, Hamilton said the Iraqi government must act with great urgency.

  • LEE HAMILTON, Co-Chair, Iraq Study Group:

    The next three months are critical. Before the end of this year, this government needs to show progress in securing Baghdad, pursuing national reconciliation, and delivering basic services.


    In New York this afternoon, President Bush met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and reassured the U.S.'s support for Iraq.