US President George Bush on Wednesday defended the attack on Iraq and vowed to win the war on terror during the first day of his state visit to the UK.
He told the audience at London's Banqueting House that the danger of "terrorists" using weapons of mass destruction aided by dictators represented "the greatest threat of our age".
Regarding Iraq, he said the people of Baghdad had rejoiced on the fall of Saddam Hussein and now had the right to free speech as enjoyed in the UK and the US.
"The dictator had been given many chances to account for his weapons programmes. Now the resolutions he defied had been enforced.
"Who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting and killing, or that the world was safer when he held power?"
He warned against breaking the commitment to see Iraq through to a stable democracy. "The failure of democracy in Iraq would throw its people back into misery and turn that country over to terrorists who wish to destroy us," Bush said. "Yet democracy will succeed in Iraq because our will is firm, our word is good and the Iraqi people will not surrender their freedom."
Defending his decision to occupy Iraq, the US leader said the UK and US shared "a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest." "We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings," he said. "Together, our nations are standing and sacrificing for this high goal in a distant land at this very hour."
President Bush paid tribute to UK service personnel who died in the war in Iraq and those serving in the country. And he said the UK and the US enjoyed a "very strong" relationship based on "an alliance of values".
He vowed that the "coalition" would not turn away from Iraq in the face of threats from "thugs".
He also reaffirmed his pledge to work towards a viable Palestinian state amid security for Israel.
In his speech, Bush urged Europe to join the United States and Israel in shunning Yasser Arafat to encourage the rise of a new Palestinian leader.
He also renewed US calls for both Israel and the Palestinians to move toward peace, telling Tel Aviv to halt settlement activity and demanding that the Palestinian Authority clamp down on violence.
"Leaders in Europe should withdraw all favor and support for any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause," Bush said. "The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better," Bush said.
Bush said the Palestinians "deserve true leaders capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state". "Those who would lead a new Palestine should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people," he said.
At the same time, Bush said Israel must also act if it wanted to see peace, repeating longstanding US calls for an end to settlement activity and the construction of a controversial West Bank security fence.
"Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and not prejudice final (peace) negotiations with the placement of walls and fences," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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