President Bush has called on Syria to pull all of its troops and intelligence personnel out of Lebanon before that country holds parliamentary elections set for this spring.

Speaking (at the National Defense University) in Washington today (Tuesday), Mr. Bush said the elections in May could only be fair and free without external intervention. He said Damascus must withdraw its forces from Lebanon or face increased international isolation.

Mr. Bush said freedom will prevail in Lebanon, and added that what he termed "a critical mass of events" is taking the Middle East in a hopeful new direction.

The president cited recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories as signs that democracy is beginning to transform the region. He said Washington looks forward to the day when Iran joins the trend.

Mr. Bush said spreading democracy is essential to winning the U.S.-led war on terrorism.