In the annual State of the Union address on Wednesday, the last one before national elections in November, Bush lauded American foreign interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And he called for the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

But the president, who received about 25 standing ovations during the hour-long speech, also called for the renewal of the controversial Patriot Act.

American Muslims and Arabs say the act, which allows for the arrest and detention without trial of foreigners, has been used indiscriminately against their community. 

"Our greatest responsibility is the active defence of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11, 2001 - over two years without an attack on American soil," Bush said.

Afghanistan and Iraq

"(But) the killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilised world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated."

"Our greatest responsibility is the active defence of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11, 2001 - over two years without an attack on American soil"

US president, George Bush 

The president said two years after invading Afghanistan the country had a new constitution guaranteeeing free elections and full participation of women.

And he said the US was working towards transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.

He also called for more democratic freedoms in the Middle East.

"We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare," he said. "Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. 

Middle East freedom

"As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends."

To bolster this policy, Bush said he would encourage pro-American media outlets to take the US' message to Middle East audiences.

He said the Voice of America and other broadcast services were expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian. Soon a new television service would begin providing "reliable" news and information across the region.

"I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press, and free labour unions in the Middle East," he said. 

However, the president also called for the controverisal Patriot Act to be renewed

Patriot Act

"I will send you (Congress) a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press, and free labour unions in the Middle East"

President George Bush

He said: "Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us.

"And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets."

Reaction to the speech was not immediately available, but it is unlikely that Bush's championing of his foreign policy will be universally applauded.

His critics say the US' intervention in Afghanistan has been a failure in a country where the security situation is fragile and the Taliban seem resurgent.

And in Iraq, US soldiers are being killed by resistance fighters almost daily, and the country's population is concerned the US will cheat it out of true democracy.