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Bush asks U.N. to extend democracy

President Bush told skeptical foreign leaders and envoys on Tuesday that Iraq is on its way to stability and democracy and called for "a new definition of security" that allows nations to act together to extend freedom to countries gripped by tyranny.

In his fourth annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Bush defended the American-led war in Iraq. He spoke in a forthright tone with an occasional defiant edge, rebutting the assertion by Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the war violated international law because it lacked U.N. authorization.

On the contrary, the president said, the United States and its allies were enforcing a Security Council resolution approved in November 2002 threatening "serious consequences" if Saddam Hussein did not disarm, disclose Iraq's banned weapons and permit inspectors to roam the country.

Bush engaged in the international equivalent of the politicking and record defending that he has done on the campaign trail since the Republican convention. He spoke of Iraq as a success story, heading toward its own elections in January and better off for being rid of "an outlaw dictator."

The difference was that on Tuesday his audience was one of sober-suited diplomats who sat mute, as is U.N. custom, rather than cheering, although they accorded him warm applause at the end.

Bush met briefly with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of Iraq, part of an administration effort to showcase him as the symbol of Iraq's advance toward democracy and stability despite the mounting insurgent attacks and doubts expressed at the United Nations that elections can be held if the violence continues.

Allawi, who was the choice of the United States as Iraq's leader in a process overseen by the United Nations this year, has been giving upbeat assessments of the Iraq situation and offering praise of Bush since his arrival in New York on Monday.

While Iraq was a prominent theme in Bush's U.N. address, it came somewhat late in a speech whose central theme was the need to advance democracy as the best way to end terrorism. He spoke in fervent tones, reminiscent of Woodrow Wilson, who is considered one of the fathers of using American power to pursue American ideals.

"No other system of government has done more to protect minorities, to secure the rights of labor, to raise the status of women or to channel human energy to the pursuits of peace," Bush said, referring to democracy. "We've witnessed the rise of democratic governments in predominantly Hindu and Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian cultures. Democratic institutions have taken root in modern societies and in traditional societies. When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations."

As part of his condemnation of terror, he also offered a firm gesture to Russia, citing the recent attack of a school in Beslan by Chechen militants, in what was seen as an effort to assuage irritations expressed by President Vladimir Putin that Washington did not realize that his efforts to combat terrorism were the same as those of the United States.

"This month in Beslan we saw, once again, how the terrorists measure their success _ in the death of the innocent and in the pain of grieving families," Bush said.

In another conciliatory gesture, he hailed the leadership of the secretary-general, brushing aside what were clearly irritations in the administration over Annan's view of the war's legality.

Only a half-hour before Bush's speech, Annan made an implicit slap at the handling of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison by American forces outside Baghdad, mentioning their mistreatment, disclosed this year, as something to condemn along with massacres of civilians and hostage takings in Iraq.

He warned world leaders that basic laws to protect civilians are being "shamelessly disregarded" around the globe. Annan said the prevalence of massacres, hostage-takings, attacks against children and cold-blooded murders reflects "our collective failure to uphold the rule of law."

Bush also brought to his speech a series of other concerns, from spreading and supporting democracy in the Middle East to trafficking in human beings for prostitution and other purposes, supporting a ban on human cloning that is now before the General Assembly and calling for increased financing in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

He called for the creation of a permanent peacekeeping force for global conflicts, especially in Africa, and also demanded that Sudan allow the entry of African peacekeeping troops and stop using military aircraft to subdue rebels in the western region of Darfur, where tens of thousands of people have died and more than a million have fled their homes.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.