Remarks by President Bush to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East

WASHINGTON , May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following are remarks by President Bush to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East : Laura and I are delighted to be in Egypt , and we bring with us the warm wishes of the...


WASHINGTON , May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following are remarks by President Bush to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East :

Laura and I are delighted to be in Egypt , and we bring with us the warm wishes of the American people. We are proud of our long friendship with your citizens. We respect your remarkable history. And we are humbled to walk in the ancient land of pharaohs, where a great civilization took root and wrote some of the first chapters in the epic story of humanity.

America is a much younger Nation, but we have made our mark by advancing ideals as old as the Pyramids. Those ideals of liberty and justice have sparked a revolution across much of the world. This hopeful movement made its way to places where dictators once reigned and peaceful democracies seemed unimaginable: places like Chile , Indonesia , Poland , the Philippines , and South Korea . These nations have different histories and different traditions. Yet each made the same democratic transition, and they did it on their own terms. In these countries, millions every year are rising from poverty. Women are realizing overdue opportunities. And people of faith are finding the blessing of worshipping God in peace.

All of these changes took place in the second half of the 20th century. I strongly believe that if leaders like those of you in this room act with vision and resolve, the first half of 21st century can be the time when similar advances reach the Middle East . This region is home to energetic people, a powerful spirit of enterprise, and tremendous resources. It is capable of a very bright future - a future in which the Middle East is a place of innovation and discovery, driven by free men and women.

In recent years, we have seen hopeful beginnings toward this vision. Turkey - a nation with a majority Muslim population - is a prosperous modern democracy. Afghanistan under the leadership of President Karzai is overcoming the Taliban and building a free society. Iraq under the leadership of Prime Minister Maliki is establishing a multi-ethnic democracy. We have seen the stirrings of reform from Morocco and Algeria to Jordan and the Gulf States. And isolation from the outside world is being overcome by the most democratic of inventions: the cell phone and the internet. America appreciates the challenges facing the Middle East . Yet we also appreciate that the light of liberty is beginning to shine.

There is much to do to build on this momentum. From diversifying your economies, to investing in your people, to extending the reach of freedom, nations across the region have an opportunity to move forward with bold and confident reforms - and lead the Middle East to its rightful place as a center of progress and achievement.

Taking your place as a center of progress and achievement requires economic reform. This is a time of strength for many of your nations' economies. Since 2004, economic growth in the region has averaged more than 5 percent. Trade has expanded significantly. Technology has advanced rapidly. Foreign investment has increased dramatically. And unemployment rates have decreased in many nations. Egypt , for example, has posted strong economic growth, developed some of the world's fastest growing telecommunications companies, and made major investments that will boost tourism and trade. In order for this economic progress to result in permanent prosperity and an Egypt that reaches its full potential, however, economic reform must be accompanied by political reform. I continue to hope that Egypt can lead the region in political reform.

This is also a time to prepare for the economic changes ahead. The rising price of oil has brought great wealth to some in this region, but the supply of oil is limited, and nations like mine are aggressively developing alternatives to oil. Over time, as the world becomes less dependent on oil, nations in the Middle East will have to build more diverse and more dynamic economies.

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