WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says supporting transitions to democracy in unstable regions like the Middle East will remain a key part of his strategy for fighting terrorism.

In a speech at the National Defense University, the president said Thursday that the peaceful realization of individual aspirations in countries like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt will serve as a "rebuke" to violent extremists.

He cited as an example the need to support those in Syria who are fighting to overthrow the government. He cautioned, however, that ending tyranny in Syria must not give way to "the tyranny of terrorism."

Obama said foreign aid is a key to supporting transitions to democracy and that this U.S. assistance should not be viewed as charity. He said it is fundamental to American national security.