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Bush to Focus on Freedom Abroad, Prosperity at Home in State of the Union Speech


President Bush goes before Congress and the American people Tuesday to deliver his annual State of the Union address. The speech will focus on the twin themes of promoting freedom abroad and prosperity at home.

The president is expected to announce no major changes in foreign policy. But he will spell out his priorities, and reaffirm his commitment to winning the war on terrorism.

Aides say he will talk about progress in advancing the cause of freedom in Iraq and elsewhere. They do not go into specifics, but during a brief session with reporters on the eve of the speech, President Bush said he will have a message for the people of Iran.

"We want the people of Iran to be able to live in a free society," he said. "And so tomorrow night, I am going to talk about this issue and make clear the policy of the United States."

Speaking after a meeting with members of his cabinet, the president said he is looking forward to the speech and stressed he is upbeat about the nation's future.

He goes into the event after a period of low public approval ratings, growing concern over casualties in Iraq, stalled domestic proposals and rising oil prices. White House officials indicate they see the State of the Union as a fresh start to his second term, and a means for the president to regain political momentum.

They say he will announce some new programs to improve U.S. competitiveness in the world economy, including steps to ease America's dependence on foreign energy sources. But this is not expected to be a speech laden with new initiatives.

Instead, Bush aides say this address will be most notable for its tone, which they say will be positive and visionary. President Bush told reporters he hopes to reduce the partisan rhetoric in Washington, and create an atmosphere where all factions can work together.

"One of the things I will do is call for Congress and the executive branch to have a good honest dialogue, but to speak candidly to each other and do so in a way that brings credit to the process," he said.

After the speech, Mr. Bush plans to make a series of appearances across the United States to win public support for the domestic initiatives he outlines in the State of the Union. White House spokesman Scott McClellan says he will also continue to speak out in separate venues about the war on terrorism.

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