5.12.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

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

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

United States Highlights Continued Syrian Interference in Lebanon

Ambassador Bolton calls for U.N. Security Council resolution

By Judy Aita
Washington File
United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- U.S. Ambassador John Bolton wants the Security Council to consider a resolution on Syria's failure to stop interfering in Lebanon.

"The U.S. has concluded [that] another resolution by the Security Council is warranted to highlight the continuing Syrian failure to comply with the requirement of [Resolution] 1559, possibly also to take into account its obligations in connection with the Hariri assassination under [Resolution] 1595," Bolton said April 26 after a briefing by U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen.

Such a resolution, the ambassador said, "would be important to show the council's continuing resolve on the question."

In a recent report to the council written by Roed-Larsen, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urgently called on Syria to take measures to stop the illegal movement of weapons and people into Lebanon. He also called on all parties who have influence with the Lebanese militia Hizballah and other militias to support their disarmament and disbanding.

Annan said that Hizballah "maintains close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication" with Syria and Iran.

IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT IN LEBANON

Bolton said that Iran's involvement in Lebanon and support to terrorist groups in the region is an issue that also might be considered by the council.

Bolton has called the secretary general's report "an important step forward in demonstrating the importance of Iranian interference in Lebanese internal affairs."

"We all know that Iran supplies Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad," Bolton said. That activity coupled with "the alliance that Syria and Iran seem to have formed in recent months" has implications for peace and security in the region.

"We now see the effect of the financing by the Iranian Government of terrorist organizations and their effort to disrupt what we think should be progress toward a sovereign and democratic Lebanon," the ambassador said.

Bolton said that Syria's failure to accept Lebanon's offer to negotiate the border delineation and demarcation is "a continuing indication by Syria that they really don't think Lebanon is an independent country."

Delineation of the Syria-Lebanon border "goes to the fundamental reality that we're trying to create, which is a free, independent, sovereign Lebanon," the ambassador said.

Resolution 1559, passed in 2004, calls for withdrawing all foreign forces from Lebanon; disbanding and disarmament of all militias; extending the government's control over all Lebanese territory; and respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon.

Resolution 1595, passed in 2005, authorized the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and called on all countries to cooperate with the probe.

On the other hand, State's Ereli says U.S., international community stand with Lebanese people
Syria continues to interfere in Lebanon's affairs one year after the withdrawal of its military troops and assets, the State Department said in a statement April 26.

In a statement noting the first anniversary of Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Syria has caused economic pressure, political interference, intimidation and security incidents toward Lebanon.

"The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy, and we support their call for national dignity, truth, and justice," Ereli said in his statement.

Following is the text of his statement:

(begin text)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 26, 2006

STATEMENT BY ADAM ERELI, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

Lebanon and Syria: Anniversary of Syrian Military Withdrawal from Lebanon

One year ago today on April 26, 2005, Syria completed the withdrawal of its military troops and assets from Lebanon, ending nearly 30 years of occupation. The United Nations verified the military withdrawal as complete, but noted that it was unable to conclude with certainty that the Syrian intelligence apparatus had been completely withdrawn. Unfortunately, Syrian interference in Lebanon has continued throughout the past year via economic pressure, political interference and intimidation, and ongoing security incidents. Syria's proxies have prevented the ongoing National Dialogue, which is being conducted in the spirit of the Taif Accord, from being able to properly address the Syrian-orchestrated extension of President Emile Lahoud's term of office.

Today, UN Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen briefed the UN Security Council on the status of the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559. The Security Council still has a crucial role to play in ensuring Lebanon's transformation to a sovereign independent state.

Disarmament of militias and extension of effective Lebanese sovereignty throughout the entire country remain priorities. Syria must immediately end the flow of arms to militias within Lebanon and cooperate with the Lebanese government on border security.

The Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year, but much remains to be done. The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy, and we support their call for national dignity, truth, and justice.

We call on the international community to continue to hold the Syrian regime accountable until it responds completely to concerns about its cooperation with the UN International Independent Investigation Commission, interference in Lebanon, insufficient action on the Iraqi border, sponsorship of Palestinian terrorist groups, and harsh crackdown on civil society.
(end text)
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Bush Authorizes Freezing Assets of Hariri Assassination Suspects

Affirms support for ongoing investigation, Lebanese government

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- President Bush issued an executive order April 26 authorizing the secretary of the Treasury to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone found to be involved in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The order also affects anyone involved in bombings, assassinations or assassination attempts in Lebanon since October 2004, anyone who provided material support for those attacks and anyone hindering the international investigation into the Hariri assassination.

Bush noted that the international commission investigating the Hariri assassination concluded in its October 2005 report that evidence points to both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the attack and that several people interviewed by the commission, including a senior Syrian official, had provided false or misleading testimony.

Bush affirmed the importance of supporting the commission’s investigation and assisting the Lebanese government in identifying and holding accountable the responsible parties.

The order did not specify any individual by name but authorized the secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the secretary of state, to determine who should be subject to its provisions.

The order allows the United States to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1636, which calls on all states to freeze the assets of those persons designated by the investigating commission or the government of Lebanon to be involved in the Hariri assassination.

The text of the presidential order.
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U.S. Condemns Syrian Subpoena of Lebanese Leaders, Journalist

State Department calls summons cynical interference in Lebanese affairs

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The United States has condemned the issuance of warrants by a Syrian military court summoning Lebanese Parliamentarian Walid Jumblatt, Telecom Minister Marwan Hamadeh, and journalist Fares Kashan to appear for questioning.

Reports indicate the Syrian military judiciary has summoned the three Lebanese men in connection with accusations of incitement and defamation aimed against Syria. Lebanon’s attorney general has confirmed receipt of the warrants.

“These actions are cynical attempts by the Syrian government to continue its interference in the Lebanese political process. These actions must come to an end now,” said a statement from State Department spokesman Sean McCormack May 5.

The three Lebanese men have been outspoken critics of Syria’s interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

“The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they seek to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy, and we support their call for truth and justice,” McCormack said.

He called on Syria to cooperate with the U.N. investigation into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and to comply fully with the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, “including by delineating its border with Lebanon, and establishing normal bilateral relations with Lebanon as evidence of its acceptance of Lebanese sovereignty.”
The full text of McCormack’s statement.
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U.S. Expresses Deep Concern on Egypt's Crushing of Demonstrations

State's McCormack says as Egypt's friend, U.S. supports political reforms

Washington -- The United States has expressed deep concern about reports of Egyptian security forces crushing peaceful demonstrations protesting election fraud and calling for an independent judiciary.

"[A]ctions such as these are incongruous with the Egyptian government's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the May 11 State Department briefing. "We support the rights of Egyptians and people throughout the Middle East to peacefully advocate for democracy and political reform."

Answering reporters' questions about the statement, McCormack said the root issue of the demonstrations was a demand for an independent judiciary in Egypt that could oversee the implementation of election laws.

McCormack described Egypt as a good friend and ally sharing many common concerns with the United States, such as fighting terrorism and working for peace in the Middle East. As a friend of Egypt, the United States will continue speaking out "very plainly" about the right of people to demonstrate peacefully. McCormack said.

The protests were called to support two judges from Egypt's highest court who went public with claims of fraud during parliamentary elections in 2005. The two have been ordered before a court panel for possible disciplinary action. The elections in November 2005 and December 2005 were marred by violence that killed 14 people.

In April, the government renewed emergency laws that it had promised to lift, a longtime demand of human rights groups because of the broad powers of arrest the laws give security forces.

The transcript of the State Department briefing.
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Cheney: Russia Backsliding On Democracy

No Eastern Europe nation or NATO member is threat, vice president adds

Washington -- Russia has a "tremendous opportunity" to become a strategic ally and partner of the United States and other democracies -- none of which constitute any kind of threat to Russia, Vice President Cheney says.

The vice president made his remarks during a May 7 interview in Dubrovnik, Croatia, with NBC News following a meeting with the prime ministers of the three Adriatic Charter nations -- Croatia, Albania and Macedonia.

The vice president expressed the hope that Russia would see its future as one of friendship and partnership with the United States and Europe, along with a renewed commitment to democratic practices and human rights inside its borders. At the same time, he acknowledged that Russia currently is "backsliding on democracy to some extent," having used control over energy resources such as natural gas "to try to gain leverage over those governments that used to be part of the old Soviet Union."

"The best neighbor that a government can have is another democracy," Cheney said. "None of those governments in Eastern Europe constitute any kind of a threat to Russia. The fact that many of them are now members of NATO does not constitute a threat to Russia. It's hard, though, sometimes to get the Russians to believe that."

Cheney said that the United States and Russia have common interests around the world, including the need for a unified international position on Iran's nuclear program. He also expressed support for Russia hosting the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) Summit in St. Petersburg. "I think a good, free, open exchange of ideas among the leaders of the eight, including Russia, will be basically a positive and healthy thing," he said.

The transcript of Vice President Cheney's interview with NBC News.
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Foreign Aid Must Foster Democratic Progress, U.S. Official Says

United States can play vital role in Muslim world, State's Tobias adds

By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- An effective foreign assistance program must go beyond charity and help equip the people and leaders of recipient countries to achieve a democratic transformation, the new head of U.S. foreign assistance programs says.

Although the United States “can and must play a vital and catalytic role” in promoting democracy, Randall Tobias said May 5, “the ultimate responsibility for achieving this transformation rests with the leadership and citizens of developing nations themselves.”

Tobias was sworn in March 31 as the nation’s first director of foreign assistance, serving concurrently as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the principal government agency administering economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide.

He outlined his views on the goals of U.S. assistance programs in a keynote speech at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a Washington-based nonprofit organization.

Tobias said his charge in his new post involves “strategically linking how we deliver foreign assistance to what we seek to accomplish in foreign policy.”

He said, “The overarching objectives for U.S. foreign assistance will focus our resources on our intent to achieve peace and security; improve governance and democratic participation; promote investments in people; and engender economic growth.”

Tobias said that meeting these goals is “nowhere … more important than in the Muslim world today -- where the United States can play a vital role in helping people in nascent democracies build a free and prosperous future for themselves.”

He stressed that in the Muslim world, as elsewhere, “all of our assistance must be delivered in ways that make clear to those we seek to assist that our efforts are rooted in partnership, and not in paternalism.”

The aid official said that promoting freedom, democracy and development is a key part of the United States’ national security strategy because it addresses the root causes of terrorism.

“Governments that rule justly, encourage economic freedom and opportunity, and invest in their people -- the hallmarks of democracies -- do not produce or tolerate terrorists,” Tobias said. ”People who see a hopeful future for themselves and their families are not willing to bind bombs to their bodies,” he added.

Tobias said, “When hate mongers like Osama bin Laden tell Muslims to reject assistance from the West, we know that it is in part because he understands that foreign assistance promotes partnership and understanding.”

Tobias said USAID has missions in 27 of the world’s 49 predominantly Muslim countries, and the majority of USAID funding for two of the past three years – even excluding assistance to Iraq -- went to those countries.

Underlining the importance he places on the Muslim world, Tobias said that his first official trip in his new capacity would be to three Muslim countries -- Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I will see firsthand how we can work better in partnership and how we can better leverage resources on the ground to support both the citizens of the Muslim world and the committed Americans working with them in their valiant efforts,” he said.

Tobias said that all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion or geography, share the same basic desire to live in peace and provide for themselves and their families.

“With a renewed focus on sustainability and supporting Muslim countries in their own vision of democracy -- a vision that builds on a proud history stretching back thousands of years -- our foreign assistance can and will strengthen democracy and improve understanding with the Muslim world,” he said.
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U.S. Official Praises Emergence of Independent Media in Arab World

State's DeSoto says journalist watchdogs are critical to democracy

By Tim Receveur
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – Journalists and independent media are especially important in the Arab world because of their crucial role in checking the power of governments and ensuring the success of any democratic process, a senior State Department official says.

“Independent media empowers people, exposes corruption, encourages transparency in government, and prompts the full political participation of people,” said Oscar DeSoto, director of the State Department’s Office for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy.

“Without such independent voices, society as a whole suffers,” DeSoto said during a State Department-hosted webchat on World Press Freedom Day May 3.

DeSoto, who oversees U.S. government activities promoting democracy and human rights worldwide, praised the emergence of independent media organizations free of state control within the Arab world.

“For too long, the Arab community has been denied access to information, and recent developments are beginning to generate needed discussion in the Middle East,” he said. “The region still has a long way to go, as the recent UNDP [United Nations Development Program] Arab Human Development Report points out, but I'm optimistic about these first steps.”

One of responsibilities of DeSoto's office is to allocate the $147 million Human Rights and Democracy Fund to support innovative programming designed to uphold democratic principles and human rights.

“Without information and free platforms for discussion and debate, there can’t be a healthy democratic process,” DeSoto said.

He also discussed freedom of speech on the Internet, saying the U.S. government has made defending Internet freedom in closed countries a crucial part of its democracy and human rights strategy.

“Communities are better served by hearing diverse voices and opinions from diverse sources of information,” DeSoto said. “Then it's our responsibility to think critically about what these sources are telling us and make up our own minds.”

More information about the Human Rights and Democracy Fund.
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Mideast Democracy Efforts Making a Difference, U.S. Official Says

Stresses that Middle East reforms must be "homegrown" to succeed

By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington -- The U.S. State Department’s three-year-old Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is beginning to make a real difference in the region through its support of democratic reformers, a top MEPI program official says.

Peter Mulrean, director of the program’s regional office in Tunis, gave his upbeat assessment in a speech May 6 at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a Washington-based organization that studies and promotes democratic reforms in the Muslim world.

“[A]cross the region, increasing numbers of people recognize the need for some form of democracy to give them a voice in their future,” he said. “[I]ncreasing numbers of courageous individuals are taking action and demanding that their voices be heard.” He added that a consensus is growing in the international community on the need to boost support for such reform efforts.

After he opened the Tunis office -- one of two such regional offices -- in August 2004, Mulrean recalled, “most reformers met me with skepticism … when they were willing to meet me at all.”

That skepticism, he said, had multiple bases, ranging from doubts about the United States’ sincerity, to disagreement with some U.S. policies, to fears by some that “they would be tarnished, or endangered, by being closely associated with the United States.”

But the doubts have begun to fade “as they have watched our clear, political statements at the highest levels combined with concrete support to reformers on the ground,” he said.

Mulrean ticked off some of the 350-odd projects, costing $293 million, that MEPI has taken on in its three years of existence -- election observation and voter education efforts in Lebanon and Egypt; support for a new network of Arab non-governmental organizations to train democracy activists across the region; development of independent media voices; programs aimed at empowering women; and training teachers in civic education.

“We have a long way to go in changing the views of the average man and woman in the street,” the MEPI official said. But “at least among the reformers we are interested in supporting, our message is getting though.”

Mulrean stressed the view that “building democracy, if it is to succeed, unquestionably must be homegrown and reflect the unique characteristics of the region.” But the United States and others can help, both by providing assistance for practical projects and by “keeping the pressure on the governments in the region to accept democratic change,” he said.

He declared that the United States is providing support not only because it is the right thing to do, “but also because it’s essential.”

“We understand that political systems that fail to support the aspirations of their people will become brittle and ultimately collapse,” Mulrean said. “Systems characterized by an absence of political choice, transparency, jobs, and personal freedoms are incubators for discontent and extremism.

“And in today’s globalized world, the actions of extremists anywhere impact all of us, directly or indirectly,” he said.

Middle East Partnership Initiative.

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