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Bush Departs Romania After Hailing its Invitation to Join NATO - 2002-11-23


President Bush has departed Romania after telling a cheering crowd of thousands that NATO membership is a guarantee that no one can take away their freedom.

During a speech in Bucharest's historic Revolution Square, Mr. Bush said Thursday's invitation to join the western alliance is a vote of confidence for continued political, economic and military reform in the former Soviet satellite. He also affirmed the friendship between the United States and Romania.

The president praised Romanians for the courage that ended what he called "two generations of tyranny" and thanked them for choosing the path of tolerance, democracy and peaceful relations with neighboring nations. President Bush said -- in his words -- "the path of freedom is not easy, but it is the only path worth taking."

In a remark apparently aimed at Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush said Romania has seen for itself that dictators cannot be appeased or ignored, but must always be confronted.

In his introductory remarks, Romanian President Ion Iliescu said the invitation to join NATO is a historic moment that marks a break from the country's past and signals a new beginning. He also thanked President Bush for making the dream and ideal of partnership with America come true.

The U-S delegation arrived in Bucharest on the last stop of an Eastern European tour to celebrate the expansion of NATO. Earlier today, President Bush told a cheering crowd in LIthuania that the new NATO members would refresh the alliance with a spirit of freedom that survived in the face of Soviet tyranny.

Romania, Lithuania, and five other former Soviet-bloc nations -- Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia -- have been invited to join NATO in 2004.

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