Bush thanks Athens for assistance

In a speech on Monday to mark the 181st anniversary of Greek Independence, US President George W. Bush praised Greece’s support in the war against terrorism, while pledging to help Athens in «warming» its relations with Ankara. «Greece and America have been firm allies in the great struggle for liberty. Greece was one of only a handful of countries that fought alongside the United States in every major 20th-century war,» Bush said at a gathering at the Presidential Hall in Washington. «As the 21st century dawns, Greece and America stand once again united, this time in the fight against terrorism.» According to Bush, Athens has proved to be a true friend, one that stood by Washington along with other allies in its times of need both politically and militarily. «Greece is a part of the coalition of nations helping bring justice to those who would harm us, harm the people of Greece, harm all those who love freedom,» Bush remarked. «The United States deeply appreciates the role Greece is playing in the war against terrorism. We thank Greece for access to the military base in Souda Bay, Crete, and for providing a naval frigate to patrol the Arabian Sea.» At a ceremony attended by Archbishop of America Demetrios, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis, CIA Director George Tenet and other government officials, Bush expressed his admiration for the progress that Greece has achieved since its independence. «One hundred and eighty-one years ago, our nation supported the cause of Greek independence. And we have admired the progress Greece has made since,» Bush declared, while stressing that liberty is always at stake. Threats to liberty Quoting an ancient Greek statesman, Bush said, «We are free to live exactly as we please, yet we are ready to face any danger,» stressing that he could also have been talking about the United States of America. «The spirit of liberty has always had enemies. It’s important for us to remember our history, that there are some who can’t stand liberty and freedom, as we learned so tragically on September 11,» he stated. «The terrorists hate the very idea of human freedom. They cannot stand the thought of freedom of religion.» He said that it must make terrorists «very nervous» to see a Methodist standing next to the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, making a reference to the two church officials present at the ceremony. «They hate freedom of speech. They can’t stand the thought of people speaking their minds. They hate our system,» Bush remarked. He went on to stress that terrorists «thought we were weak and soft,» but that they were wrong and that they are realizing it every day. «They learned it in Afghanistan, where we went into that country not to seek revenge, but to seek justice,» he said. «And this weekend, little girls went to school for the first time – some little girls went to school for the first time in Afghanistan, showing the world that we didn’t go into Afghanistan as conquerors, but as liberators.» Bush declared that the USA and its allies will continue the tough fight against international terrorism, especially against the Al Qaeda fighters. «I want to assure you all that we’re going to hunt ’em down, one by one, until our homeland is secure, until freedom is secure, to make sure our children and our grandchildren can live in a free and peaceful world,» he remarked. Strong bonds He stressed, though, that Washington stands ready to help Athens in its dialogue with Ankara, reciprocating Greece’s support in the fight against terrorism. «And just as Greece has stood side by side with the United States, the United States stands ready to encourage the continued warming of Greek and Turkish relations,» Bush noted. «We welcome the resumption of diplomatic talks on Cyprus, and hope that they will lead to a final settlement that will strengthen regional peace and stability.» Magriotis told reporters after the ceremony that Greece is a force of stability in its region, and that Turkey holds the key to the solution of the Cyprus problem. «Greece works steadily for security and peace in the area of Southeastern Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean. And this has been recognized by the EU, the international community, and by the USA,» he remarked. «The responsibility for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problems rests with Ankara.» Bush went on to note that Greece and the USA are strategic partners and strong allies, a bond that has been strengthened over the years by the strong presence of Greek immigrants in the country. «Our nation has been inspired by Greek ideals, and enriched by Greek immigrants,» he noted. «Today about 1 million Americans claim Greek origin. They’ve made a mark in every field. America is better for the 1 million Americans who live here.» Bush stressed that some members of the Greek-American community today hold positions at the highest levels of government and in government agencies, including US Ambassador to Spain George Argyros, who also attended the ceremony. «In my administration, John Negroponte heads our United Nations, and he’s doing a fine job. And as a part of my war council, the National Security Council, sits George Tenet, whose advice and steady hand have been invaluable to our success,» he remarked.

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