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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 06:22 GMT
Bush hopes for a democratic Iran
By Justin Webb
BBC News, Washington

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush's speech was made available in Farsi
President Bush has told the people of Iran that he respects them and respects their country.

In his State of the Union speech, Mr Bush said he hoped that America would one day be a close ally of a free and democratic Iran.

He said Iran was a nation held hostage by a small clerical elite, an elite which was isolating and repressing the Iranian people.

The president also renewed his demand that Hamas lay down its weapons.

This was a speech aimed equally at America and the world.

It was a speech which was partly a rallying call to the domestic audience, with passionate passages about education and the need for Americans to be true to the moral callings of their nation.

But it was also partly a re-statement of the Bush doctrine: that democracy inoculates nations from the hatreds and madness which lead to war.

You might think that is true; you might not. But you know the president believes it.

Liberty call

The US, he said, would continue to confront the threat posed by Tehran's nuclear ambitions but he said he wanted to speak directly to the people of Iran.

America, Mr Bush said, respects you. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. America hoped one day to be the closest of friends with a democratic Iran.

Mr Bush's words were simultaneously translated into Farsi on the state department website, an attempt at outreach which has never been tried before.

The president renewed his call for Hamas to reject violence and recognise Israel.

But Mr Bush did make it plain that he was not about to rein in his democratic project. Liberty, he said, was the future of every nation in the Middle East.

But in what appeared to be a recognition that this might be difficult to achieve, Mr Bush went on to issue a stark warning to Americans.

We are addicted to oil, he said - it was a serious problem which must be solved through the use of technology to find alternatives.

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