4.26.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

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

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

Bush Says Lebanon Can Be Example of Diverse, Peaceful State

Reaffirms commitment to free, independent Lebanon to Prime Minister Siniora

By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- President Bush said Lebanon, as a religiously diverse country emerging from conflict, “can serve as a great example for what is possible” to other countries in the Middle East.

Speaking April 18 with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Bush said Lebanon’s recent experience shows that people who are overcoming sectarian conflict can live in peace, and that “it's possible for people to put aside past histories to live together."

The president recalled Lebanon’s “great tradition” of serving “as a model of entrepreneurship and prosperity” and described its capital Beirut as “one of the great international cities.”

The president expressed his conviction that “if Lebanon is truly free and independent and democratic," Beirut will "regain her place as a center of financial and culture and the arts.”

He also called for a full investigation into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, saying the United States will “work with the international community to see that justice is done.” (See related article.)

Bush told the prime minister that, “the United States strongly supports a free and independent and sovereign Lebanon,” and expressed support for the country’s Cedar Revolution against Syria’s presence. He praised the courage of the demonstrators and said he supports their desire “to have a government responsive to their needs and a government that is [truly] free.”

Siniora said the United States “has been of great support” to Lebanon, and thanked Bush particularly for supporting the United Nations Security Council resolutions that called for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon following Hariri’s murder.

“I am really convinced that President Bush and the United States will stand beside Lebanon to have Lebanon stay as a free, democratic, united, and sovereign state,” Siniora said, adding that the U.S. role “is really of great importance in this regard.”

Lebanon has been going through “major changes,” he said, and his government is seeking to meet the expectations of the Lebanese people “to have a united, liberal, free country, and, at the same time, prosperous economy.”

Before the two leaders met, White House press secretary Scott McClellan praised the prime minister, saying he “has made a lot of progress under his leadership to move Lebanon toward greater prosperity and democracy … since the withdrawal of Syrian troops.”

He also said the United States “will continue to talk about the importance of making sure that there’s no outside interference to destabilize Lebanon.

“We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon and they’re still struggling to emerge from the shadow of Syrian occupation and to chart their own future,” McClellan said.

Siniora made remarks in Arabic after his meeting in which he said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss recent events in Lebanon with Bush. He said the United States and Lebanon share common values, and enjoy close ties through the many Lebanese immigrants to the United States.

The prime minister said he sensed a willingness from Bush to support Lebanese security by equipping its army, and said the United States will participate in an international conference to support Lebanon’s economy.

He said he and Bush also discussed the status of the Shebaa Farms region, which remains occupied by Israel but is claimed by Lebanon as its territory. The prime minister said he also intends to discuss the matter with the United Nations, including whatever means would be required to have the area be internationally recognized as Lebanese territory.

A transcript of the Bush-Siniora remarks is available on the White House Web site.
---------------------------------------

United States Deplores Syrian Repression of Human-Rights Activists

Dissidents subject to intimidation, detention, mob violence

The United States is concerned over the Syrian government’s increased repression of human-rights activists in recent days, according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

In a March 24 statement, McCormack said activists and demonstrators have been subject to intimidation and arbitrary detention. He also said Syrian security forces have been unwilling to protect peaceful demonstrators from mob attacks.

According to news reports, the Syrian government has, in recent days, detained numerous opposition figures involved in a March 9 demonstration against Syria’s longstanding emergency laws.

“The United States deplores the atmosphere of fear being fostered by the Syrian authorities,” he said. “We call upon the government of Syria to cease its harassment of Syrians who seek to defend their rights and to bring democratic change to their country.”

Following is the text of the statement:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
March 24, 2006

STATEMENT BY SEAN MCCORMACK, SPOKESMAN

Syria: Repression of Democracy and Human Rights Activists

The United States is concerned by the Syrian Government's increased repression of democracy and human rights activists. In recent days, individuals peacefully advocating the fundamental human rights of Syrian citizens have been subjected to intimidation and arbitrary detention by Syrian authorities. In other instances, non-violent demonstrators were attacked by a mob while Syrian security personnel stood idly by.

The United States deplores the atmosphere of fear being fostered by the Syrian authorities. We call upon the Government of Syria to cease its harassment of Syrians who seek to defend their rights and to bring democratic change to their country. The United States stands with the people of Syria in their desire for freedom and democracy.

(end text)
-------------------------------

U.S. Designates Hizballah-Controlled TV, Radio as Terrorist Entities

Treasury action freezes U.S.-held assets, bars contact with U.S. entities

Washington -- The Treasury Department has designated two Hizballah-controlled broadcasting outlets as global terrorist entities.

In a March 23 announcement, Treasury named al-Manar, a satellite television operation either owned or controlled by Hizballah, as a media outlet funded by a terrorist organization and supported by the Iranian regime -- itself a state sponsor of terrorism. The Lebanese Media Group and its radio and TV subsidiaries were singled out as global terrorist entities for promoting Hizballah activities.

"Any entity maintained by a terrorist group … is as culpable as the terrorist group itself," said Stuart Levey, under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

According to the statement, these media outlets have facilitated Hizballah’s activities, including:

• Al-Manar has employed several Hizballah members, one of which used his employment as cover for surveillance to carry out a Hizballah operation.

• Both al-Manar and al-Nour have supported Hizballah fund-raising and recruitment efforts.

• Al-Manar also has supported other designated terrorist organizations, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Palestinian al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

As a result of the designation, transactions between U.S. persons and the designated entities are prohibited. Further, any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction now are frozen.

The full text of the Treasury announcement is available on the department Web site.

Al Manar was added to the State Department's Terrorism Exclusion List (TEL) in December 2004. (See related article.)
-------------------------------

U.S. Condemns Syrian Subpoena of Lebanese Officials, Journalist

State Department Accuses Syria of interference in Lebanese affairs

The United States condemned a Syrian court’s reported subpoenas of Lebanese member of parliament Walid Jumblatt, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, and journalist Fares Kashan to answer to charges of inciting the United States to occupy Syria and defaming Damascus.

In a written statement issued April 6, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the move “yet another cynical attempt by the Syrian government to interfere in the Lebanese political process and intimidate the Lebanese people and their political leaders.”

Jumblatt is a leader of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority that rose to power in the June 2005 elections.

McCormack urged the international community to call Syria to account for its ongoing interference in internal Lebanese affairs.

Syria ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon in April 2005 under strong international pressure, but many international observers believe that Syria still maintains intelligence forces in Lebanon and continues to interfere in Lebanese affairs.

Following is the text of McCormack’s statement:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 6, 2006

STATEMENT BY SEAN MCCORMACK, SPOKESMAN

Syrian Interference in Lebanon

The United States condemns the reported issuance of warrants by a Syrian military court for Lebanese Parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, and journalist Fares Kashan to appear for questioning, in a case accusing them of "inciting the US administration to occupy Syria" and "defaming" Damascus. This move is yet another cynical attempt by the Syrian government to interfere in the Lebanese political process and intimidate the Lebanese people and their political leaders.

We call on the international community to hold the Syrian regime accountable for its continued interference in Lebanon, insufficient action on the Iraqi border, sponsorship of Palestinian terrorist groups, and its harsh crackdown on civil society.
(end text)
---------------------------

U.S. Concerned Over Harassment of Tunisian Political Activists

Harassment continues despite nominal democratic reforms

The United States has expressed its concern over the harassment of political activists and civil society organizations in Tunisia.

“While the Government of Tunisia has taken some positive steps forward, including recent prisoner releases, improvements in prison facilities, and increased protection of the media, the United States looks to Tunisia to demonstrate a sustained and consistent approach to its declared intentions to engage in greater democratic reform. Harassment of citizens seeking to express dissident views peacefully and to organize legally is inconsistent with that goal,” said State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli in an April 3 statement.

The statement comes after reports that political activist Neila Charchour Hachicha and her family have been subject to harassment, interrogation and imprisonment because of her public calls for a free press and democratic reforms in Tunisia.

This comes less than a year after another political activist, Mohamed Abbou, was convicted and imprisoned as a result of legal proceedings that were widely seen as irregular.

Following is the text of the statement:
(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 3, 2006

STATEMENT BY ADAM ERELI, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

Harassment of Tunisian Activists

The United States is concerned about reports of harassment of activists and civil society organizations in Tunisia. We are particularly concerned about the situation of political activist Neila Charchour Hachicha and her family, including the 10-month prison sentence given to her husband, confiscation of her car, distribution of doctored photographs of a family member, and her long interrogation by Tunisian authorities. The actions of the Tunisian Government are particularly troubling given her recent remarks regarding freedom of the press and the need for democratic reform in Tunisia on Al Jazeera and at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

These actions are part of a pattern of harassment. The activist lawyer Mohamed Abbou, convicted last year through legal processes that were called highly irregular by Tunisian non-governmental organizations and international observers, remains imprisoned. Activities of civil society organizations are systematically disrupted -- including those associated with the November 2005 World Summit on the Information Society.

While the Government of Tunisia has taken some positive steps forward, including recent prisoner releases, improvements in prison facilities, and increased protection of the media, the United States looks to Tunisia to demonstrate a sustained and consistent approach to its declared intentions to engage in greater democratic reform. Harassment of citizens seeking to express dissident views peacefully and to organize legally is inconsistent with that goal.
(end text)
-----------------------------

State Department Issues Report Detailing Progress in Iraq

Report finds progress in politics, economics, security, despite violence

Washington -- Iraq's economy nearly doubled from 2002 to 2005, despite disruptions from terrorists and insurgents, the State Department said in its first presidential report to Congress detailing progress in Iraq in the areas of politics, economics and security.

Water and sewage services in Iraq have been rehabilitated and immunization campaigns for children have been carried out, the department said in an April 7 media note summarizing the conclusions of the report.

Iraqi politicians are making progress toward forming a government despite the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February by attackers who sought to start a civil war, the report says, and in the realm of security, Iraqi soldiers and policemen continue to be trained and equipped.

As for the challenges, the report says the defense and interior ministries face multiple administrative challenges and the chains of command in the two ministries are undermined by militia and criminal elements, the note said. It added that Iraq's local and provincial governments face difficulties stemming from a long-history of centralized rule from Baghdad.

The media note and the report are available on the State Department Web site.
-------------------------------

Rice Says Advancing Liberty, Democracy Long-Term Answer to Terror

Direct combat with terrorists a short-term solution, secretary says

By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Fostering liberty and democracy is key to defeating terrorism by changing the circumstances that create extremists, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Testifying March 28 before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with the State Department, the secretary called direct combat against terrorists a short-term solution, but not sufficient for achieving long-term security.

"We believe that the ideology of hatred which [terrorists] espouse can only be met by advancing liberty and democracy," Rice said. That is why, she said, the United States is supporting democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as pressing authoritarian regimes for change through the Broader Middle East Initiative. (See BMENA.)

"And change is coming," Rice said. "It comes with turbulence. It comes with difficulty. But change in the Middle East is coming."

IRAQ

Senator Mitch McConnell, the subcommittee chairman, asked Rice to list items illustrating the progress being made in Iraq.

The secretary responded that the most important news from Iraq is the on-going political process both to form a unity government and to decide how that government should govern. It is a difficult and contentious process, she said, but for the first time in Iraq's history, democracy is occurring, and all elements of Iraqi society are engaged and moving ahead.

The reconstruction that is taking place in Iraq also illustrates progress, although some of it is moving more slowly than the United States would like, Rice said.

She acknowledged that the city of Baghdad is not getting as much electrical power as it had before the 2003 war, but explained that overall electrical generating capacity for the whole country has been improved. And later in 2006, she said, power in Baghdad also will improve as more generating capacity comes on line.

"Schools and clinics and children going to school are really the result of the reconstruction funds that this Congress has appropriated to the Iraqi people," Rice added.

The capabilities of the Iraqi security forces also are improving, she said, noting that the Iraqis now have taken over responsibility for keeping the majority of their territory secure.

In answer to questions, Rice said there are indications that Iran is "supporting troublemakers -- militias and the like” in southern Iraq and that British forces there believe that Iranian technology is evident in the improvised bombs being used by insurgents.

The secretary also said she has asked the Russian foreign minister to look into the question of whether Russia provided military information about the coalition forces’ strategy to Iraq officials before the war, as indicated in captured Iraqi documents.

"We take very seriously any implication that someone might have been passing information that endangered the operation at the outset of the war, and we will look for an answer back from the Russian government once, hopefully, they've had a chance to look into it," Rice said.

The transcript of the secretary’s opening statement to the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs is available on the State Department Web site.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home