3.20.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

Here is a recent policy watch of the U.S. efforts and attitudes concerning democracy promotion worldwide:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

State Department Releases 2005 Human Rights Country Reports

Democratic countries now better able to address problems, report says

Countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of rulers that cannot be held accountable for their actions were among those cited as having the poorest records on human rights in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released March 8.

Such regimes, which include the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba, China and Belarus, seriously restrict fundamental human rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion and movement, the State Department said in the introduction to the report.

“The growing demand for democratic governance reflects a recognition that the best guarantor of human rights is a thriving democracy with transparent, accountable institutions of government, equal rights under the rule of law, a robust civil society, political pluralism and independent media,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in introducing the report.

Fulfilling the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and building lasting democracies worldwide is urgent work that cannot be delayed, Rice said. ”We … hope that the reports will be a source of information and inspiration to the noble men and women across the globe who are working for peaceful democratic change.”

REPORTS INTENDED TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY WORLDWIDE

The 2005 reports, which provide analyses of the human rights situations in 196 countries, are designed to assess human rights conditions worldwide. The reports, according to the introduction, demonstrate that the United States is committed “to working with other democracies and men and women of goodwill across the globe to reach an historic long-term goal: “ ‘the end of tyranny in our world.’”

The introduction summarizes human rights improvements in the Balkans, Colombia and the Great Lakes region of central Africa, which encompasses the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Although human rights violations and miscarriages of justice occur in democratic countries, “countries with democratic systems provide far greater protections against violations of human rights than do non-democratic states, ” according to the State Department. Further, human rights and democracy are closely linked, and both are essential to long-term stability and security.

SOME COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS

In 2005, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Lebanon and Liberia made major progress toward democracy, democratic rights and freedom.

Yet a disturbing number of countries across the globe passed or selectively applied laws against the media and nongovernmental organizations, including Cambodia, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Belarus. Syria refused international calls to respect the fundamental freedoms of its people and did not cooperate fully with the U.N. International Independent Investigative Commission on the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

Russia adopted a restrictive new law on nongovernmental organizations and, by the end of 2005, all independent nationwide television stations had been taken over either by the state or by state-friendly organizations.

“A robust civil society and independent media help create conditions under which human rights can flourish by raising awareness among publics about their rights, exposing abuses, pressing for reform, and holding governments accountable,” the State Department reported.

Countries with worsening human rights records and overall climates of lawlessness and corruption include Sudan, Nepal, Cote d’Ivoire, Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia’s Northern Caucasus region.

The purpose of the reports is not only to bring to light human rights achievements and violations but to illuminate future tasks and the potential for greater cooperation in advancing the aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The reports show human rights flourish in countries that promote democracy, said Paula J. Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs.

“The furtherance of democracy, by definition, advances individual rights and freedoms by increasing people's ability to shape their government, their society and the decisions which affect their daily lives,” Dobriansky said at the March 8 briefing.

Transcripts of the secretary’s remarks and Dobriansky’s briefing are available on the State Department Web site.

The full text of the 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is available on the State Department Web site.

Human Rights Reports Key to U.S. Foreign Policy, Official Says

State's Lowenkron discusses Russian NGO law, Chinese Internet censorship

The State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are especially important to advancing U.S. foreign policy goals, says Barry F. Lowenkron, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

“It gives a very good picture of the human rights practices of each country,” Lowenkron said in a March 6 interview with the Washington File.

“This is important because the United States carries out a foreign policy that has a strong human rights component to it. That has been part of the fabric of the nation. Congress mandated this well over 30 years ago.”

The annual human rights reports are congressionally mandated by a 1976 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, which requires the secretary of state to transmit to Congress “a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights” in countries receiving U.S. security assistance.

Following the report’s delivery to the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to present the reports to the public at a press briefing on March 8. The report examines the status of human rights in 2005 in 196 countries.

Lowenkron said the increasing trend of governments regulating nongovernmental organization (NGO) activity, such as the new NGO law in Russia, and censoring Internet content, especially in China, is of particular concern.

“The problem with the NGO law is it tries to do something that is antithetical to democracy. It’s democracy top-down,” Lowenkron said of the law signed by President Vladimir Putin on January 10. The law increases the Russian government's oversight of the registration, financing and activities of NGOs in Russia. The United States is concerned that the new Russian law will be used to hinder the work of NGOs.

The U.S. focus on the issue of Internet censorship is not going to go away, Lowenkron said.

“I have told my Chinese counterparts that there is tremendous public interest as well as congressional interest in it in the United States,” he said.

The assistant secretary said the newly formed Global Internet Freedom Task Force, chaired by Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky and Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs Josette Shiner, including State Department officials in international communications policy, human rights, democracy, business advocacy and corporate responsibility, will be working with U.S. businesses, NGOs, the European Union and other governments to address Internet freedom issues.

The task force will make recommendations to Secretary Rice on policy and diplomatic initiatives, Lowenkron said. (See related article.)
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Democracy-Building Key To Fighting Terrorism, Rice Says

Secretary also stresses importance of fighting poverty

By Peggy B. Hu
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The spread of democracy around the world is essential to defeating terrorism, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a town hall meeting with students in Sydney, Australia, March 16.

"Now, in times of challenge we need to remember that freedom and equality, democracy and opportunity, human dignity and individual rights are at the core of who we are. They make us greater than our small selves, and they summon us to defend our way of life whenever that way of life is attacked," she said.

The secretary said that the United States and Australia support the cause of democracy, not "because we think ourselves perfect," but "because we know ourselves to be imperfect, with long histories of our own failures and false starts in our quest for just and perfect democracies."

According to Rice, the United States and Australia -- and other democracies around the world -- are now engaged in "a struggle of many decades that will require patience, and courage, and yes, sacrifice."

"Like every other war that our alliance has waged, the war on terrorism must be fought with the force of arms when necessary -- but it will not be won by force of arms alone. As in our struggles against communism, and Nazism, and militarism, it is the force of human freedom that will ultimately defeat an ideology of hatred and violence," she said.

According to Rice, democracy helps prevent terrorists from gaining a foothold in society by providing a voice for the disadvantaged.

If you think about the roots of terrorism, she said, "if you think about what they are really drawing recruits from … it is the hopelessness and the absence of freedom that gives them [terrorists] an opportunity to speak ... in these extreme ways on behalf of the disaffected."

"If, instead, people who are disaffected, people who have concerns, people who have complaints, people who have been disadvantaged in one way or another, have legitimate channels through which to go to address their grievances, I cannot believe that it will be more popular to make your children suicide bombers than to send them to university," she said.

FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY

The secretary also discussed the importance of fighting poverty.

According to Rice, President Bush "has been a very big proponent of foreign assistance." She said that since the beginning of the Bush administration, the United States has increased its official development assistance by half, tripling assistance in Africa and doubling assistance in Latin America.

"There is a very deep commitment in this administration to making life better for the poor and for those who live still in poverty," she said. She warned, however, that the provision of such aid "can only really take place in the context of accountable governments and democratic governments, because we know what happens when that assistance goes to those who don't govern wisely.

"We know what happens when that assistance goes to those who are corrupt. We know what happens when that assistance goes to those who are not accountable to their own people. And so democracy and development go hand in hand and that's how we see the fight to defeat this ideology of hatred that breeds terrorism."

MIDDLE EAST

In response to a question regarding the Palestinian election of Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, Rice said, the international system has to hold fast to two principles. "The first is that if you are elected, you have to govern democratically. In other words, being elected and then starting to subvert democratic institutions is not acceptable.

"Secondly, if you are elected, you have an obligation to recognize that you can't have one foot in terrorism and one foot in the political process. In other words, the gun and the ballot can't go together. And that is the discussion, that is the requirement, that is being placed before Hamas at this point," she said.

"[D]emocracy is ... more than just having elections. It's also institutions. It's also rule of law. It is also the ability of democracies to deliver for their people," Rice said.

RUSSIA

On Russia, Rice said the international community should be concerned about "the centralization of power in the Kremlin."

"I say to my Russian colleagues very often that no democracy survives without checks and balances and countervailing institutions, whether it's a strong parliament or an independent judiciary or political parties," the secretary said.

Rice said the United States has been trying to encourage Russia "to allow civil society to develop, to allow political parties to develop, to allow ... a truly free press, to have an independent judiciary and to have a parliament that has an independent say."

"The progress is not even and there have been some setbacks and some reverses," she said.

Rice said she hopes the Russian people "will find their voice to demand accountable, transparent institutions and to demand the ability to organize themselves to petition their government and, if necessary, to change their government peacefully through democratic process. After all, that's what the essence of democracy is."

The secretary said that excluding Russia from "institutions in which these values are paramount," such as the Group of Eight (G8) or the NATO-Russia Council, will not encourage democracy.

"I do think we have to continue to speak loudly for the development of Russian democracy and to say to Russia that that is what is expected of a country that is a great power and that at least has started down this road," she said.

A transcript of Rice’s remarks is available on the State Department Web site.
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Liberty, Democracy Best Antidotes to Hatred, Terrorism, Rice Says

Secretary of state says 2007 Foreign Affairs Budget would support effort

Washington -- The spread of liberty and democracy is the best antidote to the ideologies of hatred that feed terrorism, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, and proposed 2007 U.S. foreign affairs spending supports the spread of freedom.

She told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, the Department of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies March 9 that many people in the Middle East and South Asia only now are acquiring a free voice and moving toward constructing stable democracies.
In the Palestinian Territories, Rice said, a free and fair election has resulted in the victory of Hamas, a terrorist organization. While expressing support for continued humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, Rice said no U.S. funding would go to Hamas.

Rice praised recent elections in Haiti and Liberia, where the first woman president on the continent of Africa has been elected, saying the United States would support “their transitions to democracy and stability.”

The secretary also called Iran an “acute” challenge, but indicated that its determination to develop nuclear weapons was matched by the international community’s resolve to prevent that from happening. Iran's support for terrorism is also a destabilizing presence throughout the region, she added.

While working with the international community to bring Iran's nuclear program to the attention of the United Nations Security Council, Rice said, the administration has asked for supplemental funding “to reach out to the Iranian people with broadcasting, with educational and cultural activities, and with support for nongovernmental organizations.”

Regarding Sudan, Rice said that Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick is in Europe to gain support for an African Union decision to make its current peacekeeping mission in Sudan a United Nations effort. That would allow for a more robust security presence in Darfur, she said. Moreover, she said President Bush hopes that NATO would lend logistical support to such a U.N. operation.

Rice also said the president’s recent trip to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan spotlighted three nations that once were thought to form an “arc of crisis” and a region doomed to conflict. Today, she said, India and Pakistan have a comprehensive dialogue under way, and Afghanistan is a fledgling democracy. She also said that the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement not only will put India’s civilian nuclear apparatus under international safeguards, but also will help that burgeoning economy have access to clean and plentiful energy.

The full text of Rice’s prepared remarks is available on the State Department Web site.
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Bush Calls for Full Cooperation on U.N. Hariri Investigation

President says Lebanese militias must be disbanded

President Bush reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to ensuring that the U.N. investigation into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri moves forward.

Bush told a reporter for Lebanon’s Future Television March 9 that the United States has no intention of cutting a deal with the Syrian government and turning a blind eye to its lack of cooperation with the U.N. investigation in exchange for concessions on Syrian support for terrorism in Israel, Lebanon and Iraq.

“Our position is, is that we want to know the truth and we expect all parties to be forthcoming with the truth,” he said.

The president also reaffirmed U.S. support for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for the disbanding of all Lebanese militias. “[Y]ou can't have a democracy if political parties have their own armed force,” he said. “Our position is that the Lebanese forces ought to be in control of the security of Lebanon, for the good of the people.”

Bush did not weigh in on the campaign to oust Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who won an extended mandate in 2004 following a Syrian engineered revision of the Lebanese constitution, but he said he believes a president should be someone who is “independent-minded” and “understands that foreign influences inside of a country can be very negative.”

Bush said he looks forward to a future of peace and democracy in the Middle East. “My dream is for there to be a Palestinian state at peace with Israel. My dream is for Lebanon's democracy to flourish. My hope is that Iraq's democracy will serve as an example for others, and so people can realize their potential. And I believe this is going to happen,” he said.

Rice Urges Lebanese Leadership To Disband Domestic Militias

Secretary of state praises Lebanon's efforts to re-establish democracy

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed the United States’ support for Lebanon’s efforts to re-establish full sovereignty and democracy and said she believes the Lebanese leadership will embrace full implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution dealing with the country’s political transition.

Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Lebanon, February 23, Rice expressed confidence “that within the context of the transition that is going on here that the Lebanese leadership truly understands the responsibilities to the full implementation of Resolution 1559 and that includes the disbandment of militias.”

The Security Council adopted Resolution 1559 in September 2004, prior to presidential elections in which a Syrian-engineered constitutional amendment allowed Emile Lahoud to extend his term of office. In addition to calling for free elections without foreign intervention, the resolution urged respect for Lebanese sovereignty and independence, the withdrawal of all foreign forces, the disbanding of all militias and the extension of Lebanese government control over the full territory of the country.

Even though some of the demands in the resolution have been met, the Hezbollah militia continues to operate in Lebanon. Recently, Lebanese parliamentary leader Michel Aoun signed an agreement with Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, outlining conditions under which they believe Hezbollah should be allowed to retain its weapons.

Reacting to questions about the demands in Lebanon for Lahoud’s resignation, Rice said, “Lebanon will resolve the situation in ways that are consistent with Lebanon's desire to be a democracy in which all can participate and a democracy that is looking to its future.”

Rice also said Syria must comply with the U.N. inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Speaking to reporters while en route to Lebanon after meetings with leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Rice said there should be a “common voice” urging Syria to cooperate with the U.N. probe into the assassination. “I think there will be more messages delivered to Syria about the importance of cooperation,” she said, adding that she planned to discuss the issue in the United Arab Emirates, her final stop in the region.

Rice also said in the en route briefing that Lebanon has made “enormous strides” since the death of Hariri, including mobilizing the international community to get Syrian forces out of Lebanon, beginning to build their own security forces, having an election and moving towards economic reform.

Transcripts of Rice’s briefing en route to Lebanon and her remarks with the Lebanese prime minister are available on the State Department Web site.
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State's Welch Calls for Expansion of Democracy in Tunisia

Tunisia should expand democracy, human rights protection and free enterprise, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch said March 15.

"Every country undertakes these reforms at its own pace and in its own context. Not to move forward is to go backward," Welch said in a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia.

The assistant secretary called on Tunisia to respect the right of free and peaceful assembly, allow civil society to expand through the registration of new nongovernmental organizations and media and permit free access to an open Internet.
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Rice Lauds Indonesia's "Vibrant Democracy"

En route to Jakarta, secretary also discusses Middle East, democracy-building
Indonesia has made "giant strides" toward democracy in recent years, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will be visiting that country during the next few days.

Speaking to the press March 12 during a refueling stop in Brazil, Rice cited Indonesia's democratic elections and improved relations with East Timor as examples of concrete signs of success. "[T]he people of Indonesia seem to be coming together around religious tolerance, ethnic diversity and democracy," she said.

As a result, the United States has been able to reinstate military-to-military relations, which had been suspended for a number of years due to human rights abuses in Indonesia, Rice said.

The secretary emphasized the importance of maintaining contacts with the people who are going to be important to restoration of democracy. President Yudhoyono, who currently leads Indonesia today, was a graduate of the U.S. International Military Education Program, she noted.

"[T]he military is an important institution in Indonesia," Rice said. "It's by no means completely made its reforms, but we believe those reforms are under way and that we can have a more positive effect on those reforms by being connected to it."
Indonesia will be the second stop on the secretary’s planned three-nation tour. Rice attended the inauguration of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet March 11 and, following her visit to Indonesia, will travel to Australia to represent the United States in a three-way security dialogue with Australia and Japan.

DEMOCRACY BUILDING, THE MIDDLE EAST

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, is highly interested in Israeli-Palestinian issues and the Middle East, according to the secretary. Rice called the recent Palestinian democratic elections "a good thing, and the Palestinian people are to be congratulated for carrying out those democratic elections."

She acknowledged the elections did bring to power Hamas, which the United States regards as a terrorist organization. "[B]ut I think it was the Palestinian people voting for change from a government that had not served their interests to hopes for a better future," Rice said.

That "better future" must include a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the secretary said. She added that the United States "remains absolutely committed to a two-state solution" and "to a better life for the Palestinian people." (See The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.)

Rice spoke of the difficulties of establishing democracies. "There's an assumption here that somehow you can neatly build civil society, neatly build the habits of democracy, then you take off the authoritarian hat and everything's in place for democracy to rise. I just don't think it works that way in the real world.

"Rather," she continued, "I think what you see is that you have to unleash the forces of democratic change -- that's very often through elections -- recognizing that you may not fully have in place the institutions to create the kind of moderate states in the middle that you would like, but you have to unleash those forces and then you have to work very hard to continue to build those institutions of civil society.

"And yes," the secretary acknowledged, "there are going to be some outcomes that we don't like."
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U.S. Wants New Negotiations on U.N. Human Rights Council

Ambassador Bolton contacting delegations over deficiencies in current plan

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The United States wants to reopen negotiations on the draft resolution establishing a United Nations Human Rights Council, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said February 27.

"My instructions are to reopen the negotiations and to try and correct the manifold deficiencies in the text of the resolution or alternatively to push off consideration of the resolution for several months," Bolton told journalists.

"We are very disappointed with the draft … we don't think it's acceptable," Bolton said of the draft resolution presented February 23 by General Assembly President Jan Eliasson. (See related article.)

If the General Assembly president brings the resolution to the plenary in the next few days, the ambassador said, the United States "will call for a vote and vote no."

The United States is prepared to stand alone in voting against the draft resolution, Bolton said.

Eliasson has said that he hopes the resolution will be adopted by consensus the week of February 27.

A spokesperson for the General Assembly president said that a number of member states have indicated that they still are awaiting responses from their capitals to the draft resolution.

Pragati Pascale, the president's spokesman, said Eliasson would not comment on Bolton's remarks and has received no formal communication from the United States.

Eliasson, Pascale said, still feels it "is important to move to closure as soon as possible on this issue to enable a smooth transition when the Human Rights Commission meets in March. Reopening negotiations is not likely to produce a better outcome and there is nothing to be gained by waiting."

Bolton said U.S. diplomats are contacting other delegations "making it plain … we want to reopen the negotiations and have real international negotiations and correct the deficiencies in the current draft."

"We remain committed to trying to convince other nations that cosmetic reform alone is not sufficient, that we need real change in the way the U.N. decision making mechanism functions," the ambassador said.

"We wanted effective change in the Human Rights Commission, which was obviously broken beyond repair," the U.S. ambassador said.

RECIPE FOR REPEATING MISTAKES OF THE PAST

Mark Lagon, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, said February 23 that the United States is unwilling “to settle for something that is just a change in name and schedule."

Particularly, the United States wants "to make sure the procedures for electing members and for disqualifying the most bloodthirsty regimes in the world are established so that we turn a page in the history of the Commission on Human Rights -- which has done much good but which has lost credibility by becoming a body of not just firefighters but arsonists."

David Schwarz, who has served as a public delegate on three U.S. delegations to the Commission on Human Rights, said that without setting clear objectives and verifiable membership criteria and requiring a comprehensive review of each prospective member's human rights record before elections, the new Human Rights Council "could drift back toward the situation that crippled the commission." (See related article.)

Leaving key issues unresolved or not addressing the structural problems that led to the dysfunction of the commission "is not a fix or a solution but a recipe for repeating the mistakes of the past," Schwarz said.

The draft resolution would establish a 47-member Human Rights Council elected by a majority of U.N. members. Every new member would undergo a human rights review.

The United States is pressing for a council of about 30 members elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.

Lagon said that a two-thirds majority would set "a high bar for election" and boost the credibility of the council's membership. "All candidates, including the U.S., would have to work hard to be elected," he said.

A smaller council than the current 53-member commission "would be more nimble in developing a common vision and taking action," Lagon continued. The United States also would like to see the council meet four times a year, with extra sessions as needed.

In addition, the United States supports doubling the budget of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with the additional resources and increased personnel to be used to enhance field operations, Lagon said.

For additional information, see United States and U.N. Reform.
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Iran the "Central Banker for Terrorism" in Middle East, Rice Says

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Even if Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment activities, the United States would be unlikely to agree to bilateral talks, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

During a March 9 roundtable in Washington with Australian, Indonesian and Latin American journalists, Rice said "Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq."

Should Iran agree to drop its nuclear ambitions, she said, "that isn't a quid pro quo for anything. It just needs to be done because it's a demand of the international system."

"I don't foresee any reason for broader talks with the Iranians. We have our channels," Rice said. She emphasized that U.S. efforts to isolate the Iranian regime do not extend to the Iranian people. "We want to continue to reach out to the Iranian people in any way possible, which is why we have asked for more resources for broadcasting, more resources for educational and cultural exchanges," she said.
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America Will Lead World to Victory Against Terrorism, Cheney Says

Vice president pledges to stop Iranian nuclear weapon, expresses support for Iranian people
Washington -- The best hope against terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons is the continued commitment of America and its allies to expanding freedom throughout the world, says Vice President Cheney.

“The terrorists have declared war on the civilized world, and America will lead the civilized world to victory,” the vice president told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee March 7.
Cheney said that terrorists aim to seize control of a country from which they can start destabilizing an entire region.

As in Afghanistan, Cheney said, “They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a narrow, hateful ideology.

“The terrorists have targeted people of every nationality and every religious faith, including Muslims who disagree with them,” said Cheney, adding, “The war on terror is a fight against evil; victory in this war will be a victory for peaceful men and women of every religious faith.”

Their ultimate goal, he said, is to acquire chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons for use in future attacks. (See related article.)

Calling the government in Iran one of the world's primary state sponsors of terror, Cheney said, “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

As the International Atomic Energy Agency meets to deliberate on Iran’s nuclear program, Cheney said the “international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences” if Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons. (See related article.)

However, the vice president expressed America’s support of the Iranian people. “The people of Iran,” he said, “can be absolutely certain that we respect them, their country, and their long history as a great civilization -- and we stand with them.

“Freedom in the Middle East requires freedom for the Iranian people," Cheney said, “and America looks forward to the day when our nation can be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.”
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Bush, Pakistan's Musharraf Recap Democratic, Economic Progress

Both presidents reaffirm close partnership between the United States, Pakistan

By Melody Merin
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- U.S. President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf expressed their commitment to ongoing mutual support and partnership between the United States and Pakistan in a March 4 press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Musharraf said that he and President Bush had revived and strengthened the relationship between the two nations. "We have laid the foundations of a very strong, sustainable, broad-based and long-term relationship between Pakistan and United States," he said.

Both presidents praised Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism, to resolve the Kashmir conflict with India, to revive its economy and to install a democratic government.

Bush specifically paid tribute to Pakistan’s alliance with the United States in fighting terrorism. "Pakistan has lost brave citizens in this fight. We're grateful to all who have given their lives in this vital cause. We honor the Pakistanis who continue to risk their lives to confront the terrorists," he said.

Sharing good intelligence is key to locating and defeating al-Qaida terrorists, according to President Bush. He added that Pakistani’s agreement to join the Container Security Initiative, a U.S. program intended to improve security at U.S. ports, helps to prevent the spread of dangerous materials and reduce the threat of terrorism.

Regarding the Pakistan-India conflict over the Kashmir region, Bush said that progress has been made in the last five or six years. He praised the leadership of President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and their efforts to quell the tension between both countries, and encouraged all involved parties to continue working to resolve this and other issues.

The U.S. and Pakistani leaders also discussed rebuilding Pakistan’s economy in the wake of the October 2005 earthquake that devastated portions of the country.

"Part of the tangible evidence of our relationship is the half-a-billion-dollars commitment to help this country rebuild," said Bush. The U.S. president added that Samuel Bodman, U.S. secretary of energy, has been tapped to help evaluate and restore Pakistan’s energy supply.

The U.S. president also pledged to work "on a bilateral investment treaty that will encourage foreign investment and more opportunity for the people of Pakistan." Specifically, he supported Musharraf’s vision of a reconstruction opportunity zone in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan where products manufactured in those zones would be eligible for duty-free entry into the United States.

ADVANCING DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN

Advancing democracy in Pakistan was another subject highlighted by both Musharraf and Bush during the press conference.

According to Musharraf, "We have empowered the people of Pakistan now -- they were never empowered before -- by introducing a local government system where we have given the destiny of their areas for development, for welfare, for progress in their own hands through financial, political and administrative involvement." As examples, he cited recent steps to empower women and minorities, to expand press freedom, and to protect individuals; right to free speech.

President Bush reiterated the need for Pakistan to maintain an "open and honest" election and reaffirmed the commitment of the United to States to work with Pakistan "to lay the foundations of democracy."

The transcript of the press conference is available on the White House Web site.
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Rice Acknowledges Egypt's Democratic Advances, Despite Setbacks

U.S. secretary of state meets with Egyptian prime minister, foreign minister

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Egypt February 21 that the United States has no right to be “arrogant” in discussions about democracy, but democracy is a basic right that the United States will continue to address in its discussions with other nations.

“[T]he United States, as much as any country, has no reason to be arrogant about democracy and a reason for humility,” she said during a press conference following her meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “It was in my lifetime, and I'm not that old -- in my lifetime -- that the right to vote was guaranteed to African Americans in the South, so we've been through our own struggles with democracy.”

During her visit to Egypt in June 2005, Rice gave a speech urging Egypt to lead the Middle East in democratic political reform. She said Egypt has seen tremendous changes in the eight months since that speech. (See related article.)

“We have to realize that this is a parliament that is fundamentally different than the parliament before the elections, a president who has sought the consent of the governed,” she said.

Egypt held its first multicandidate presidential race in September 2005. In parliamentary elections in November 2005, opposition candidates won more seats than in any previous vote.

Rice said, however, that there have been disappointments and setbacks in Egypt's democratic experience, which she discussed with Egyptian officials “as a friend, not as a judge.” She identified the arrest and prosecution of political opposition leader Ayman Nour as one of these disappointments. She said she would discuss the political setbacks with representatives of Egyptian civil society February 22 to find out “what more can be done to be helpful to them.” (See related article.)

The secretary said that transforming a closed political system into a pluralistic democracy is a long, difficult process, but added, “however hard the journey is to democracy, it is worth it and it is the only system in which human beings can fully flourish.”

She also said democracy would necessarily take a different form in every country.

“[O]ur aspiration is not that people will have an American-style democracy. American-style democracy is for Americans. But that there will be a democracy that is for Egypt or for Iraq or for any other people on this earth,” she said.

Rice said her discussions with the foreign minister and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif also touched on the new Palestinian government and the Iranian nuclear issue. She thanked the Egyptians for taking the lead in discussions with Hamas to make clear the international community’s expectations that the new Palestinian government demonstrate a commitment to peace with Israel, adhere to existing agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis and renounce terror.

Regarding Iran, she said she spoke about the need “for the international community to remain united in insisting that Iran take a reasonable course in terms of the development of civil nuclear power.”

She stressed that the international community has no desire to deprive Iran of civil nuclear power.

“We're not questioning civil nuclear power. They can have it. They just can't have enrichment and reprocessing capability because no one trusts them with that very important technology which could lead to a bomb,” she said.
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United States Welcomes Release of Political Prisoners by Tunisia

State Department urges Tunisia to take more steps to expand democratic freedoms

The United States welcomes the release of 1,657 political prisoners by the Tunisian government and encourages Tunisian authorities to take further actions toward expanding democratic freedoms, according to a statement March 1 from State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.

Ereli's statement expressed regret that the Tunisian government banned a peaceful demonstration February 24 by legal opposition parties.

Following is the text of Ereli's statement:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
March 1, 2006

STATEMENT BY ADAM ERELI, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

United States Welcomes Tunisian Release of Political Prisoners

The United States welcomes the announcement by the Government of Tunisia that it has freed 1,298 prisoners and granted conditional parole to 359 others. Some of these 1657 prisoners, including 70 members of the banned An-Nahda party, the editor of the Islamist newspaper Al-Fajr, and two groups condemned to long prison terms after looking at suspect websites, had been described by human rights NGO's and independent political observers as political prisoners.

The United States encourages the Government of Tunisia to continue to take further actions consistent with its declared intentions to engage in greater democratic reform. We look to Tunisia to accelerate reforms that create a more open and vibrant political space in which all parties, civil society organizations, and released prisoners can operate more freely. In this context, the United States regrets the Tunisian government's decision to ban a peaceful demonstration on February 24 by legal opposition parties and similar moves to limit the ability of those parties to express their views.
(end text)
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State's Hughes Announces New Initiatives for Mideast Businesswomen

Under secretary announces initiatives during visit to United Arab Emirates

Washington -- Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes unveiled two initiatives on supporting Middle Eastern business women during a visit to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) February 19.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has selected the United Arab Emirates as the site for the second Business Women's Summit scheduled for November, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi reported on its Web site. The first Middle Eastern businesswomen's summit took place in Tunis, Tunisia, in 2005.

The second initiative involves training in business and information technology for UAE women by Microsoft and the Institute for International Education with funding from MEPI, the embassy said.

MEPI, which was launched in 2002, offers numerous programs throughout the Middle East to support the advancement of democracy, free markets, education and women's empowerment.

For additional information, see Middle East Partnership Initiative.
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Some related posts:

-U.S. Announces Syria Democracy Program

-U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

-U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

-Bush Will Not Retreat, U.S. To Advance Freedom

-Bush, Americans and Spreading Democracy

-Rice, Foreign Policy and Promoting Freedom

-WORLD FREEDOM 2005

-The Realities of Promoting Democracy

-Promoting Freedom and Democracy is a Vital Part of the War on Terror

-The bases of the U.S. Mideast policy

-Terror and democracy in the Middle East

-U.S. National Intelligence Strategy Highlights Democracy Promotion

-Iraq and Lebanon: Ongoing Liberation

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