| GEO World|
| Bush delivers upbeat defense of his Mideast policy|
| Updated at: 0657 PST, Saturday, December 06, 2008|
WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush delivered a broad and upbeat defense of his Mideast policies on Friday, yet cautioned that President-elect Barack Obama will inherit threats from Iran's nuclear programs, an unfinished Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and a fragile democracy in Iraq.
Bush said his administration has been "ambitious in vision, bold in action and firm in purpose" — although not always popular — in its approach to the volatile region. Some efforts have not always gone according to plan, and in some areas the administration has fallen short of its goals, he said in a speech at the annual Saban Forum, a gathering on Middle East policy.
"For example, the fight in Iraq has been longer and more costly than expected," Bush said. "The reluctance of entrenched regimes to open their political systems has been disappointing, and there have been unfortunate setbacks at key points in the peace" talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Still, Bush proclaimed that the Mideast was a freer, more hopeful place today than it was when he took office in 2001. He cited examples: The Lebanese are free from Syria's military occupation; Libya's nuclear weapons equipment is locked away in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are emerging as centers of commerce; Iran is facing greater pressure from the international community than ever before; and the threat from terrorist organizations like al-Qaida has been curtailed.