BRUSSELS, Belgium - President George W. Bush pledged Tuesday to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and "raise the flag of a free Palestine."
"The world must not rest until there is a just and lasting resolution to this conflict," Bush said in an address before the European Union in Brussels. "Our greatest opportunity, and our immediate goal, is
peace in the Middle East."
Bush devoted much of his speech to the Middle East and the improved prospects for peace with the new Palestinian leadership that took over after the death of Yasser Arafat in November.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has "an opportunity to put together a strategy of reform," Bush said. "I hope he will seize the moment."
Peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution was now within reach, Bush said. But he underscored that Israel must end settlement activity, that the future Palestine must be a democracy, and that Palestinian territory in the West Bank must be "contiguous ... a state on scattered territories will not work."
Bush called on Palestinian leaders "to confront and disarm terror" and said that Israel has a right to live in security.
Israel has an interest in a Palestinian democracy, Bush said.
The U.S. Leader said he would send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to an international conference in London March 1 designed to help the Palestinian authority reform its finances and security system.
But he cautioned that reforms cannot happen all at once.
"We seek peace between Israel and Palestine for its own sake," Bush said. "We also know that a free and peaceful Palestine can add to the momentum of reform throughout the broader Middle East."
Syria must leave Lebanon
Turning to another volatile spot in the world, Bush called on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. As Bush spoke, thousands of opposition supporters in Beirut shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of Lebanon's pro-Syrian government, marking a week since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's most prominent politician.
Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon, Bush said to applause.
"The Lebanese people have the right to be free, and the United States and Europe share an interest in an independent, democratic Lebanon," he said, adding that if Syrians stay out of Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the spring, the vote "can be another milestone of liberty."
Iranian regime must listen to its people
Bush also continued to push Iran to end its nuclear ambitions. He said the United States was working with European allies Britain, France and Germany in the "early stages of diplomacy." Bush did not, however, note that the United States is not fully backing the Europeans' approach to offer Iran economic and political incentives not to develop nuclear arms.
"The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran," Bush said. "The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people and respect their rights and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them."
Despite Bush's appeal to bury past differences, divisions remain — over postwar Iraq and other issues, including the U.S. decision not to enter the Kyoto climate change treaty, which many European nations supported.
Bush said the answer lies in "the power of human ingenuity."
"Emerging technologies such as hydrogen powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible," he said.