Bush scolds "brutal regimes" as he pushes democracy

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 (Reuters) US President George W Bush today rallied fellow UN members to what he called a mission of liberation and named Belarus, Syria, Iran and North Korea as ''brutal regimes'' that deny people their rights.

With national representatives seated before him on the opening day of the UN General Assembly, Bush also scolded the governments of Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Cuba as he called for the spread of democracy, a consistent theme of his UN speeches.

''This great institution must work for great purposes: to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and diseases, illiteracy and ignorance and poverty and despair. Every member of the United Nations must join in this mission of liberation,'' he said.

Bush said Americans were ''outraged'' over human rights abuses in Myanmar and announced new US sanctions on its military rulers who are facing the biggest anti-government protests in two decades.

He criticized the Zimbabwe government headed by President Robert Mugabe as ''tyrannical'' and an ''assault on its people.'' ''The government has cracked down on peaceful calls for reform and forced millions to flee their homeland,'' Bush said. ''The United Nations must insist on change in Harare and must insist for the freedom of the people of Zimbabwe.'' Critics blame Mugabe's policy of seizing white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks while the government blames international sanctions for the economic crisis there.

Alluding to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has been ill, Bush said his rule of the island was ''nearing its end'' and said free speech and elections should follow a transition in power.

''In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration (of Human Rights),'' he said.

Addressing the crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region, which has been ravaged by violence, he said the UN must follow through on a pledge to deploy peacekeeping forces.

He said the United States ''salutes the nations that have recently taken strides toward liberty, including Ukraine and Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and Mauritania and Liberia, Sierra Leone and Morocco.'' Bush repeated US criticism of the UN's Human Rights Council, which he said ''has been silent on repression by regimes from Havana to Caracas to Pyongyang and Tehran while focusing its criticism excessively on Israel.'' US foes see Bush's ''freedom agenda'' as a way to bully countries which the Bush administration opposes.

They say that while Washington is pointing the finger at others, it has faced widespread condemnation for its treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and terrorism suspects at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

REUTERS AE RAI2254

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