"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," Bush said on Tuesday as he sought to drive the election-year agenda in his annual State of the Union address.
 
He declared that the "the state of our union is strong" despite American anxieties about the war in Iraq, the economy, and rising energy prices that are throwing a cloud over the economy and pinching American pocketbooks.
 
He proposed training 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced courses in mathematics and science. In addition, he urged bringing 30,0000 math and science professionals into the classrooms to teach.
 
Bush said the US needed to strengthen its competitiveness in the global economy.

"The American economy is pre-eminent; but we cannot afford to be complacent," he said. "In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India."

Plea for research

Bush said the US must curb its reliance on foreign oil imports. He called for more research on batteries for hybrid and electric cars and work on alternative fuels to produce ethanol from wood chips, stalks or switch grass.
 

Bush offered no timetable for
bringing home troops from Iraq

"Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years," the president said.

"Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

Incidentally, the largest sources of American petroleum consumption are Mexico and Canada. Imports of oil and refined product from the Gulf make up less than a fifth of all imports and 11% of total consumption, according to US Energy Department statistics.

Iraq hindsight

Although the US went to war on the faulty premise that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, Bush said: "Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy."
 
With the war in Iraq about to enter its fourth year and more than 2240 American troops killed, Bush said the nation must not falter in what he called the central front in the war on terror.

"There is no peace in retreat," the president said. "And there is no honour in retreat."

Bush did not offer any timetable for bringing American troops home from Iraq. There are about 138,000 US troops in Iraq, down from about 160,000 at the time of the January elections.
 
Despite recent elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that have given rise to religious-based parties with views sometimes hostile to the West, Bush pressed Saudi Arabia and Egypt - longtime allies that Washington is loath to challenge too aggressively - to provide greater freedoms to their citizens.
 
Towards freedom

"Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause," Bush said.

Bush urged Hamas to recognise
Israel and reject terrorism

"Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet, liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East."
 
He urged Hamas to "recognise Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace".
 
Bush said the US and its allies were united in insisting that Iran not develop nuclear weapons.

The US president called the Islamic republic "a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people".

Closest of friends

Speaking directly to the Iranian people, Bush looked towards a different future for their country and said the US "hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran".
 
On a key domestic issue, Bush proposed new tax incentives
to encourage Americans to save for healthcare needs. Health care is a priority for both parties, particularly since nearly 46 million Americans lack insurance.
 
The State of the Union speech is one of the prime events on the US political calendar. The nationally televised speech is delivered in the Capitol before members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and other dignitaries.