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Elder Bush defends son's speech

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's inaugural address, with its emphasis on spreading democracy and battling tyranny anywhere in the world, was not meant to signal a new direction in US foreign policy, former President George Herbert Walker Bush said yesterday.

"People want to read a lot into it -- that this means new aggression or newly asserted military forces," Bush's father said in the White House briefing room. "That's not what that speech is about. It's about freedom."

Some who heard the speech Thursday said it seemed to chart a new course for US relations with other countries. Some Asian nations, for example, have expressed concern that the address signaled a more aggressive foreign policy.

In the address, Bush said, "We will persistently clarify the choice . . . every nation: the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right."

His father, president during the first Iraq war, told reporters that he no longer is up to speed on every detail of foreign relations.

Nonetheless, he said, no one should think the president was being arrogant when he spoke of confronting oppressive leaders as a way to protect US security.

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