Monday, March 28, 2005

Declaring that the United States is on the “right side of freedom’s divide,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday released the State Department’s third annual report to Congress on the Bush administration’s effort to promote human rights and democracy around the world.

“Freedom, democracy and human rights are not American principles or Western values. These ideals are shared by all people. They are the non-negotiable demands of human dignity,” Miss Rice said at a department briefing. “We are working tirelessly to support democracy and human rights in every country where these principles are not completely fulfilled.”

President Bush and senior administration officials often raise the issue of human rights when talking with officials from other nations. And in Mr. Bush’s inaugural address in January, he said promoting democracy and human rights is U.S. policy.

Yesterday, Miss Rice said the “ultimate success” of U.S. relations with other nations “depends on the treatment of their own people.”

She dismissed those who question whether certain nations and societies, presumably the Islamic Middle East, are “ready” for freedom and democracy.

“We reject these cynics,” she said. “History proves their arguments hollow.”

Citing elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq, as well as the people-power revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Lebanon, Miss Rice said, “Freedom’s work has most assuredly begun.”

The 300-page “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy” report repeats much of the criticism of China, Pakistan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and other perennial rights violators found in the State Department’s annual report on human rights, which highlights abuses around the globe.

The democracy report, however, also describes what the United States is doing to pressure those governments into better treatment of their citizens.

Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said the United States uses methods that might be most effective. “There are many ways to skin the cat,” he said.

In the Middle East, the report said, the United States initiated or backed 30,000 activities in support of civil society in Iraq during the past year, and pressed Saudi Arabia and Egypt to be more tolerant of Jews, Christians and non-Muslims.

Although the report criticizes Pakistan’s human rights record, Washington last week announced its decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to the country, a key ally in the war on terrorism. Mr. Kozak said this move was not sending Pakistan a mixed signal.

“Sometimes it’s the carrot and sometimes it’s the stick,” he said.

The report said, “China’s authoritarian government continued to suppress political religious and social groups,” but the United States last week decided not to seek a censure of China’s human rights record at the United Nations this year. Mr. Kozak credited the decision to some improvements made by China in the past year.

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