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Bush warns Syria and Iran over terror (GUARDIAN UK) Julian Borger in Washington 02/03/05)Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1404776,00.html GUARDIAN UK GUARDIAN UK Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
President George Bush last night issued clear warnings to Syria and Iran that they were next in his sights in his declared mission to spread democracy around the world.

The state of the union address to Congress had been billed as reconciliatory, but, along with a series of references to alliances and international initiatives, there were some blunt words.

After recounting the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the president said: "There are still governments that sponsor and harbour terrorists, but their numbers have declined.

"There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction, but they are no longer without attention and without consequence."

The president then singled out Syria, which he said "still allows its territory and parts of Lebanon to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region."

"We expect Syria to end all support for terrorists and open the door to freedom," he said, to heavy applause from members of Congress.

He turned to Iran, which he said "remains the world´s primary sponsor of terror" and he issued a direct message to Iranians to stand up to the clerical regime in Tehran.

He said the US was working with European states to make clear to Tehran it must give up its uranium enrichment programme, but he also signalled a much broader agenda, aimed at the ultimate removal of the clerical regime itself.

He declared "to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

He heralded the start of a "new phase" in the Iraq occupation, in the hope of shifting US military efforts from fighting the insurgency to training Iraqi troops.

However, he rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawal.

"While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances," he said. "Our commitment remains firm and unchanging."

In a clear indication Mr Bush has no intention of allowing his radical presidency to lose momentum in its second term, he used the speech to outline an ambitious agenda both at home and abroad.

It included a call to restructure the federal pension scheme to allow for private accounts, a step towards the president´s ideal of an "ownership society", and a pledge to create a tax code that was "easy to understand and fair to all".

In a significant nod to his Christian conservative supporters, he vowed support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage "for the good of families, children and society".

Mr Bush committed the US to engage diplomatically in the Middle East, claiming that a permanent peace based on independent Palestinian and Israeli states was "within reach" with US help.

"The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach - and America will help them achieve that goal," Mr Bush said.

"It´s a rejection of the status quo and a call for something better," said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and analyst. "Like him or not, you have to acknowledge there is a Bush doctrine."

The president´s speech carried echoes of the "freedom speech" he delivered a fortnight ago, but it went into specifics, laying out a blueprint for the next four years. As in his inaugural address, the president framed the Iraq invasion in terms of a broader mission to spread democracy.

"We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty - as they showed the world last Sunday," the president told a cheering chamber.

Many Republican members of Congress raised fingers that had been dipped in purple ink, emulating Iraqi voters.

"The new political situation in Iraq opens a new phase of our work in that country," the president said.

"We will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces - forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure."

The administration hopes such forces will increasingly bear the brunt of fighting, relegating US forces increasingly to training role. However, training is so far lagging far behind expectations.

Administration officials say the White House is determined to repair some of the damage done to relations with Europe by the Iraqi invasion. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is due to arrive in Britain tonight. She is also to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Monday.

The president´s speech was intended to show his administration would make the most of the opportunity created by January´s Palestinian elections to mount a new peace initiative.

"The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach - and America will help them achieve that goal," Mr Bush said.

That commitment would, he said, be backed up by $350m in aid to the Palestinians to support "political, economic, and security reforms" and help rebuild after the planned dismantlement of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. (Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004 02/03/05)


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