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Bush Thanks Hungary for Efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2006 – While standing atop Gellert Hill in Budapest today, President Bush thanked the Hungarian people for their contributions to the cause of freedom and for the country's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Hungary represents the triumph of liberty over tyranny, and America is proud to call Hungary a friend," Bush said. "In Afghanistan, your soldiers have rebuilt schools and a medical center. They've helped train Afghan police to enforce the rule of law and to protect the Afghan people.

"In Iraq, Hungarian troops play a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom by providing security and delivering food and medical supplies to coalition forces," he continued. "Today Hungarian soldiers are helping to train Iraqi security forces."

By supporting these fledgling democracies, Hungarians are bringing hope to millions of people, he said.

The president said many Hungarians know what it is like to live without freedom. During the Cold War, Hungarians suffered under a communist dictatorship and domination by a foreign power in the Soviet Union.

Bush said the Hungarian people decided they had had enough and took to the streets in 1956 to advocate change, only to be further repressed by the Soviets. Scores of Hungarians fled into exile in search of liberty during this time, many finding refuge in the United States.

"These immigrants have contributed to my country in countless ways," he said. "And America will always be glad that we opened our doors to Hungarians that were seeking freedom."

In 1989, a new generation of Hungarians returned to the streets to demand their freedom, Bush said. Hungary became the first communist nation in Europe to make the transition to democracy, he said.

"You regained your independence, held free elections and established a free economy. Hungary is now a valued member of NATO and the European Union," he said.

During his visit to Baghdad June 13, Bush said that he was impressed by what he saw. "Americans and Hungarians, and other coalition partners can be proud of what we have achieved in partnership with the Iraqi people," he noted.

"I met with Iraq's new prime minister and was able to see firsthand his strong character, his commitment to freedom and his determination to succeed," he said. "Prime Minister (Nouri al-) Maliki is committed to the democratic ideals that also inspired Hungarian patriots in 1956 and 1989. He has a sound plan to improve security, to unify his people and to deliver a better life for the citizens of Iraq."

The success of the new Iraqi government is vital to the security of all nations, Bush said, and Iraqis deserve the support of the international community.

"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," he said.

Iraq's young democracy still faces determined enemies who will use violence and brutality to stop the spread of freedom, he said.

"Defeating these enemies will require sacrifice and continued patience, the kind of patience the good people of Hungary displayed after 1956," Bush said. "The lesson of the Hungarian experience is clear -- liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied."

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Related Sites:
Transcript of President Bush's Remarks
State Department Background Notes on Hungary

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