President Bush Friday has proposed creation of a special U-S-Middle East Free Trade Area to reward nations that renounce terrorism, embrace the rule of law, honest government and open markets.
Delivering a major policy speech at the University of South Carolina, Mr. Bush said late Friday that what happens in the Middle East matters greatly to the United States -- and he said economic improvements there would greatly enhance US security.
He said creation of the free trade zone would be accomplished through negotiations with individual nations over the next 10 years. Mr. Bush said countries that wish to take advantage of his proposal must replace corruption with good business practices and good government.
Today, Mr. Bush said the combined economies of all Arab world produce less than that of Spain. He said free markets and trade would change that and replace old hatreds with new hopes.
It is, in the president's words, "a time of historic opportunity" -- a time "to seize the moment" in the wake of the ousting of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The president also stressed a special U-S commitment to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the Taleban and other groups that back terrorism are not the wave of the future.
To ensure that the flag of Palestine will fly over a free and independent nation, Mr. Bush urged the Palestinian people to renounce terror and follow through on that promise.
Mr. Bush called on Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied territories. And he said Israel's Arab neighbors must recognize that the Jewish state has a right to exist in peace.
To seize the moment, the president said Secretary of State Colin Powell will leave for the Middle East in a few hours. Secretary Powell's ultimate goal, Mr. Bush said, is to see Israel and a nation of Palestine living side-by-side in peace.