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Bush delivers final Union speech PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Agence France-Presse . Washington

The US president, George W Bush, delivers his final State of the Union speech Monday, its agenda-setting powers diluted by pressing, unfinished business abroad and the fight to succeed him at home. With not quite 12 months left in his term, the deeply unpopular president is slated to revive a few bold ideas — like his May 2007 call to double US funding to battle AIDS — and argue that US-led forces are winning in Iraq.

But he faces a US economy in crisis; the uncertain fate of his suddenly personal, late-game Middle EastBush delivers final Union speech peace drive; a struggle over ending North Korea’s nuclear programmes; and tensions with Iran over its atomic ambitions. ‘I will report that over the last seven years, we’ve made great progress on important issues at home and abroad.

I will also report that we have unfinished business before us, and we must work together,’ he said on Saturday. He will urge lawmakers to approve a proposed US economic stimulus package hoped-for by mid-February; make permanent his giant tax cuts, which expire in 2010; and approve free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. Bush is also expected to call on the US Congress to renew his signature education reform law, approve a controversial law allowing warrantless spying on US citizens, and curb its appetite for costly pet projects. Bush told the USA Today newspaper in an interview on Thursday that he would not wax sentimental over his time in office, partly because ‘we’ve got so much going on’ that there is little time to dwell on the past.

‘Look at the world — you’ve got Iraq, Iran, Middle Eastern peace opportunities, North Korea, Sudan, Burma. This is a world that is full of opportunities to spread freedom and hope and opportunity,’ he said. But spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged a day later that ‘it is unrealistic’ to expect lawmakers to bring Bush’s calls for overhauling immigration policy and pension programs back from the dead.

The speech comes not quite three months after the president helped revive Middle East peace talks, and about three weeks after he visited the region in hopes of promoting an agreement to create a Palestinian state by late 2008. For years, Bush has battled charges of keeping the peace process at arm’s length by saying he was the first sitting US president to call for such a state — but aides say he wants to be able to point to more than words before his term runs out.

Bush, whose time in office was shaped by the September 11, 2001 attacks by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, is unlikely to address the fact that the terrorist mastermind he vowed to capture ‘dead or alive’ is still at large. And six years after Bush used the same forum to declare Iran, North Korea, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq an ‘axis of evil,’ all three countries are still source of major headaches.

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