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By NEDRA PICKLER
President Bush will try to convince skeptical world leaders to embrace his vision for the Middle East in a speech before the United Nations on Tuesday where he is calling on the world to "stand up for peace" in the face of violent extremism.
Bush’s challenge is to build international support to confront multiple problems in the region: unabated violence in Iraq, a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, armed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Iran defiantly pursuing its nuclear program.
The Iranian issue was at the top of the agenda for Bush’s morning meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, who is balking at the U.S. drive to sanction Iran for defying U.N. Security Council demands that it freeze uranium enrichment.
Chirac proposed on Monday that the international community compromise by suspending the threat of sanctions if Tehran agrees to halt its uranium enrichment program and return to negotiations. The U.S. and other countries fear Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its uranium enrichment program is to make fuel for nuclear power plants.
Besides Chirac, Bush also was meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.
Bush’s speech was the last in a series on the war on terror, timed to surround last week’s fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to set the tone for the final weeks of the U.S. midterm elections.
Bush was allotted 15 minutes for his annual address to the general assembly, and White House aides said he planned to use the time to call on the world to support moderate governments and help build up weak democracies in Iraq and Lebanon, as wells as the Palestinian Authority.
With remarks aimed especially at people living in the Middle East, Bush was drawing a distinction between the moderate governments that want peace and extremists who want to spread terror and violence.
He was describing his vision for moderates to choose the future instead of the extremists, pointing out that the same principles are in the U.N. charter and its declaration of human rights, aides said.
He planned to describe how every nation in the civilized world has a stake in the region, but especially the Muslim countries.
"The world must stand up for peace," Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery.
Bush also planned to address the issue of Sudan, where three years of fighting in the African nation’s Darfur region has killed more than 200,000 people. The president was scheduled to announce that Andrew Natsios, the former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, will become Bush’s special envoy for Sudan to help end the fighting.
Bush was speaking in the same cavernous room where four years and one week ago he made another plea for action in the Middle East. On that day, Bush said Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of deadly chemical and biological agents that the United Nations must confront.
He was wrong, but still forged ahead with war against Iraq without the support of many other nations. And he is still trying to rebuild credibility with the body, experts say.
"The sense outside of the U.S. is that the United States is responsible for many of the failures in Iraq, first by going in mostly alone and then by incompetent administration," said Jon Alterman, a Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"The problem with the way he’s talked about democracy in the Middle East is not that people see it as undesirable," Alterman said, "it’s that people see it as naive. He needs to persuade cynical people that not only is he sincere, but it’s achievable, and here’s what they need to do to make it so."
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press