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Trust me, Bush tells Muslim world

03-07-2004

By WILLIAM NEIKIRK in Istanbul

South Australia, Sunday Mail:

US PRESIDENT George W. Bush told Muslim nations not to be suspicious of the West as he wrapped up the NATO summit with another plea for democracy in the Middle East.

"Freedom is the future of the Middle East," Mr Bush said at Galatasaray University in Istanbul.

The president returned to the US with two major achievements: the surprise transfer of power to Iraq two days early and a commitment by NATO to train and equip Iraqi forces. In his speech, Mr Bush said that chiefly through his pressure NATO is transforming itself by joining the fight against terrorism.

"Through decades of the Cold War, our great alliance of liberty never failed in its duties, and we are rising to our duties once again," he said. Mr Bush acknowledged that democracy is greeted with suspicion in some parts of the world.

"Some people in Muslim cultures identify democracy with the worst of Western popular culture and want no part of it," he said.

"And I assure them, when I speak about the blessings of liberty, coarse videos and crass commercialism are not what I have in mind.

"There is nothing incompatible between democratic values and high standards of decency."

Mr Bush again called for the European Union to admit Turkey. He said that including Turkey "would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion, and it would expose the `clash of civilisations' as a passing myth of history". But Mr Chirac said that he was opposed to admitting Turkey to the EU because it has not met conditions for membership, and he criticised Mr Bush for commenting on EU affairs.

"Not only did he (Bush) go too far, he ventured into territory which is not his concern," Mr Chirac said.

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