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Bush Criticizes Iran, Lauds United Arab Emirates

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Bush Criticizes Iran, Lauds United Arab Emirates

Middle East

Bush Criticizes Iran, Lauds United Arab Emirates

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Today, President Bush addressed the people of the Middle East.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Throughout the sweep of history, the lands that the Arab people called home had played a pivotal role in world affairs.

SEABROOK: The president gave his keynote speech on a swing through the region during a stop in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. It was there, he launched a new verbal attack on nearby Iran.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has been following the president.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Mr. Bush came out strong on Iran, calling it the world's leading state sponsor of terror, and accusing Tehran of sending hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world.

Pres. BUSH: Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. So the United States is strengthening our long-standing security commitments with our friends in the Gulf and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late.

KELEMEN: Gulf states are worried about a rising Iran, but Tehran is also an important business partner in much of this region, making sanctions a tough sell.

But that was not the only message the president had for the VIPs of Abu Dhabi. The president also came out to talk to them about democracy, and he described the United Arab Emirates — an oil-rich nation highly dependent on foreign labor — as a model Muslim state that is tolerant toward people of other faiths.

Pres. BUSH: You have succeeded in building a prosperous society out of the desert. You have opened your doors to the world economy. You have encouraged women to contribute to the development of your nation, and they have occupied some of your highest ministerial posts.

KELEMEN: The women in the room — dressed in black abayas, some with beautifully embroidered details to show some individuality — sat mainly in clusters, though mixed in with the men wearing traditional white robes. This was the Abu Dhabi elite. And though few wanted to say anything about the president afterwards, one man did give a so-so sign when asked about the speech.

There was little new in it, and it came from a lame-duck U.S. president, though Bush seemed to be trying to write his own legacy when he talked about how the United States helped rebuild Japan after World War II.

Pres. BUSH: And just as our commitment to Asia helped people there secure their freedom and prosperity, our commitment to the Middle East will help you achieve yours.

KELEMEN: Prosperity is a good word for this city on the Gulf. The president was speaking in a gilded auditorium in the Emirates Palace, a hotel which is said to have cost more than $3 billion to build. Abu Dhabi's crown prince also showed him around his weekend desert encampment, where they dined together and the prince showed off his hunting falcons.

Oh, and there was one more sign of wealth around here. On arrival, Mr. Bush was given a large encrusted necklace with hundreds of rubies, emeralds and diamonds and a medallion with a hand-painted enamel American flag. A reporter with him said the Secret Service called it the biggest bling they've ever seen.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Abu Dhabi.

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