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September 26, 2007
Bush Speech Touts Human Rights
In contrast to the hectoring lecture offered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President Bush pleaded with the United Nations to stand up for human rights where repressive governments were trampling on them:
President Bush, calling on countries to live up to freedoms and rights promised by the United Nations almost six decades ago, on Tuesday announced tighter sanctions on Myanmar and denounced the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe as “brutal regimes” that should be confronted for their abuses. The President also didn't mention Iran's nuclear program, leaving that subject to European leaders like President Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany who both came out four square against the mullahs getting their hands on nuclear weapons.
In contrast to previous addresses here, he barely mentioned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan except to say that the international community should do more to support those countries. Nor did he make a reference to one of his administration’s biggest foreign-policy concerns: Iran’s nuclear program.
The President also took the new Human Rights Council to task for its failure to condemn anyone except Israel:
Mr. Bush complained that the new council, which the United States also voted against, had since its creation voted exclusively on resolutions criticizing Israel. Predictably, the Cuban delegation walked out when the President alluded to the coming end of the Castro regime. And the Iranian President sat in the audience glancing at his watch several times during Mr. Bush's speech.
Michael Kozak, an aide on the National Security Council, later said the Council had voted against Israel 13 times. “This body has been silent on repression by regimes from Havana to Caracas to Pyongyang and Tehran, while focusing its criticism excessively on Israel,” Mr. Bush said.
In short, the speech was a ringing call to make the words of the United Nations Charter come alive by empowering the UN to address human rights issues in the most repressive dictatorships in the world.