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Bush invokes allure of freedom in visit to ex-Soviet satellite

BUDAPEST -- Comparing the struggle for freedom that started in Hungary 50 years ago to the fight in Iraq today, President Bush used a hilltop address yesterday to make a far-reaching homage to democracy.

``Liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied," Bush said from a majestic perch overlooking the Danube River coursing through Budapest.

Ignoring the fact that the United States stood by while the Soviet Union crushed the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Bush told his Hungarian audience that ``people across the world . . . take inspiration from your example and draw hope from your success."

The president's spokesman had described this 13-minute address as a ``tone poem," intended as an elegiac testament to the cause of democracy.

Bush came to Hungary to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviets, which began in October 1956 with a revolt against security forces who fired on protesting students. As the Soviets crushed that uprising with massive military force, several thousand people died and 200,000 Hungarians fled to the West for refuge.

Hungary won its independence in 1989 and became the first of the former Soviet-bloc states to turn democratic with the election of a parliament in 1990. It has become a staunch ally of the United States and has deployed forces to Iraq and Afghanistan.

``The success of the new Iraqi government is vital to the security of all nations," Bush said. ``We will continue to help Iraq take its rightful place alongside America and Hungary as beacons of liberty in our world."

But John McGlennon, professor of government at The College of William and Mary, questioned the analogy.

``There is not a very direct comparison to make between an uprising against the leadership, the dictatorships of Eastern Europe in the 1950s, and what is going on in Iraq today," McGlennon said.

``Obviously, it would serve the administration's purposes well to try to draw that conclusion," McGlennon said, but ``this sounds more like political spin than diplomatic history."

With a speech on Gellért Hill, Bush revisited a theme he has voiced in the public squares of other former Soviet-bloc nations.

``Fifty years later, the sacrifice of the Hungarian people inspires all who love liberty," Bush said. ``We've learned from your example, and we resolve that when people stand up for their freedom, America will stand with them."

Bush, who made the elimination of tyranny the theme of his second inaugural address, has honored the ``Velvet Revolution" in the former Czechoslovakia, the ``Rose Revolution" in Georgia, and portrayed elections in Iraq, with purple ink-stained fingers, as the ``Purple Revolution."

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