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President George W. Bush says that expanding freedom is not simply a moral imperative, but is also the only realistic way to ensure a peaceful world:
"Years ago, [Soviet dissident] Andrei Sakharov warned that a country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respond to the rights of its neighbors. History proves him right. Governments accountable to their people do not attack each other. Democracies address problems through the political process, instead of blaming outside scapegoats. Young people who can disagree openly with their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists -- they will join in defeating them. For all these reasons, the United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism."
President Bush said that to advance the United States' freedom agenda, he has met personally with dissidents and democratic activists from some of the world's worst dictatorships, including Belarus, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. He said he looks forward to meeting other dissidents, including some from Iran and Syria.
Freedom is also under assault in countries that have shown some progress, said President Bush:
"In Venezuela, elected leaders have resorted to shallow populism to dismantle democratic institutions and tighten their grip on power. The government of Uzbekistan continues to silence independent voices by jailing human rights activists. And Vietnam recently arrested and imprisoned a number of peaceful religious and political activists."
Yet while these developments are discouraging, there are more reasons for optimism, said President Bush. "More people now live in freedom than ever before," said Mr. Bush, "and it is the responsibility of those who enjoy the blessings of liberty to help those who are struggling to establish their free societies."