WASHINGTON — US President George W. Bush warned that the United States will not allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons, in a wide-ranging speech on Friday to defend his Middle East policies.
"We have made our bottom line clear: For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush, who leaves office January 20, said in prepared remarks.
He accused Iran and Syria of supporting terrorism, expressed frustration with the pace of democratic reforms in the Middle East, called the Iraq war "longer and more costly than expected" and said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained "the most vexing problem in the region."
"Despite these frustrations and disappointments, the Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful, and more promising place than it was in 2001," said the US president.
He pointed to Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" against Syrian sway, Libya's decision to halt its quest for nuclear weapons, Iraq's fledgling democracy, and prosperity in places like the United Arab Emirates.
"There is now greater international consensus than at any point in recent memory" on the need to build an independent Palestinian state living side by side at peace with Israel, he said.
"The regime in Iran is facing greater pressure from the international community than ever before. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda have failed decisively in their attempts to take over nations, and they are increasingly facing ideological rejection in the Arab world," he said.
But "there are still serious challenges facing the Middle East. Iran and Syria continue to sponsor terror, Iran's uranium enrichment remains a major threat to peace, and many in the region still live under oppression," he said.
Bush, who was to deliver the remarks at 5 p.m., made no reference in the speech to his successor, Barack Obama.
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