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ARAB AFFAIRS - Nov.6 - Concern Over Bush's Democracy Call.

Arab leaders express concern about Pres. Bush's Nov. 4 call for democracy in the Middle East. Bush recast the argument for America's intervention in Iraq as part of a "global democratic revolution", announcing a "new policy" which will no longer excuse or accommodate dictatorships in the Muslim world. In a sweeping speech to the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, Bush portrayed himself as a champion of liberty setting out a "forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East". His call was intended to echo that of the former Republican president who mandated the endowment, Ronald Reagan, when confronting the Soviet Union 20 years ago. Bush was speaking as a memorial service was held in Iraq for the 16 US soldiers killed when a Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents on Nov.2. He made no mention of WMD or the alleged threat Saddam Hussein posed to US national security, but instead emphasised the importance of American sacrifice to the spread of freedom. He said: "Iraqi democracy will succeed and that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution". Drawing a line under "60 years of western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East", Bush expanded on the transformationalist agenda embraced by his national security adviser C. Rice. (In August, Ms Rice set out US ambitions to remake the Middle East, an argument championed by neo-conservatives eager to use American power to advance democracy and free markets. The White House did not elaborate on Bush's implicit criticism of half a century of US foreign policy in the Muslim world, nor the suggestion that fellow democracies in Europe had coddled cruel dictatorships in the Arab/Muslim region). Bush said: "The US has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East". His speech came just before he signed legislation authorising $87 bn in further funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest US programme of financial aid since the post-World War II's Marshall Plan. Just over 7 months since Bush stood on a US aircraft carrier and addressed troops beneath a banner that said "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, the White House is making renewed efforts to defend the pre-emptive war launched by Bush. Bush made swift mention of other regions of the world where democracy is yet to take root, such as China. But he emphasised the democratic progress in the Middle East, citing countries such as Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Morocco and Jordan. He also said: "The Saudi government is taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections" - in a brief reference to one of the most contentious countries on the US foreign policy agenda.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 8, 2003
Previous Article:ARAB AFFAIRS - Nov.2 - Iraq Neighbours Meet In Damascus.
Next Article:ARAB-EUROPEAN RELATIONS - Nov. 2 - Opinion Poll Mars Israel Relations.

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