U.S. Promotes Democracy in Middle East as Universal Principle

Secretary of State Rice says democracy in Middle East will have local form

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States promotes democracy in the Middle East because democracy is a universal principle with benefits for all people.

"[A]round the world people want to be able to say what they think or worship as they please or educate their children, both boys and girls, or not to have to deal with the arbitrary power of the state that causes the knock of the secret police at night. And so these are universal values," Rice said in an interview with Al Arabiya television in Cairo, Egypt, June 20.

The secretary said that forms of democracy differ from region to region and that the people of the Middle East will find the form of democracy that is best for them. Rice said that, in the past, the United States traded democracy for stability in its policies toward the Middle East, and in the end it got neither

Commenting on electoral reforms in Egypt, Rice said the United States supports the changes favoring competitive elections. She added that the elections must be free, fair and transparent.
Commenting on her meeting with Egyptian dissident Ayman Nour in Cairo, Rice said that it was important that the voice of civil society be heard.

"I would not be at all opposed if someone came from Egypt and wanted to meet with opposition figures in the United States, not in the least. I think it would be perfectly natural if a leader from Egypt wanted to come and meet with people who've been in opposition or who have views that are opposed to the views of the American Government because that's what openness is," she added.

Rice said the United States is working hard to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because resolution would improve everything in the Middle East, including democracy. The secretary said that 62 percent of the Palestinian voters elected Mahmoud Abbas as their president based on a platform of making peace with Israel.

The secretary congratulated the Lebanese people for the successful conclusion of their parliamentary elections.

She said the message to Syria is that Damascus needs to change its behavior because it is working against the desires of the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian peoples.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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