- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

BUDAPEST — President Bush yesterday said Hungarians’ struggles to free themselves from tyranny and Soviet control are a beacon for people in burgeoning democracies elsewhere, particularly Iraq.

“The lesson of the Hungarian experience is clear — liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied,” the president said in commemorating both the 1956 uprising that was crushed by Soviet tanks and the successful 1989 effort that made Hungary the first communist nation in Europe to move to democracy.

The setting could not have been more impressive. The president spoke from the Citadel, an old fortress on a hill, with the Danube River and most of the city spread out behind him.

Mr. Bush said Hungary’s lessons about the long struggle for freedom have been learned in Iraq by people such as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who he said “is committed to the democratic ideals that also inspired Hungarian patriots in 1956 and 1989.”

“We will continue to help the Iraqi government establish free institutions, to achieve its goals, and we will continue to help Iraq take its rightful place alongside America and Hungary as beacons of liberty in our world,” Mr. Bush said.

The speech came at the end of two days of meetings in Europe. On Wednesday the president met with the Austrian chancellor, who currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, for the U.S.-EU summit.

Yesterday, he had meetings with Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom and Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany before making his speech.

Both the Austrian and Hungarian leaders pressed Mr. Bush to protect human rights even as he pursues the war on terror.

“This fight against terrorism can be successful only if every step and measure taken are in line with international law,” Mr. Solyom told the president.

Both EU and Hungarian leaders also pressed Mr. Bush to relax visa travel rules for European nations.

The White House said it has told European nations there is a road map in place to qualify.

Mr. Bush travels next month to the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg where he will be under pressure to take a harsh stance on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s backsliding on democracy. White House officials had said yesterday’s speech was not a message to Mr. Putin, but the Russian leader could certainly see it that way.

“You know that the democratic journey is not easy, but you continue to make the tough decisions that are necessary to succeed,” Mr. Bush told his audience yesterday.

The president mentioned the Soviets’ role three times, and specifically blamed “the communists in Moscow” for the brutality.

Hungary’s 1956 revolt lasted from Oct. 23 to Nov. 4, during which more than 2,000 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed. Mr. Bush noted that “some of those who faced tanks” as freedom fighters were part of his audience yesterday.

He also said he was proud America accepted thousands of Hungarian immigrants.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, in advance of the speech, called it a “tone poem” about the 1956 uprising and how it fits into Mr. Bush’s push for freedom around the world.

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