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Archive for Sunday, February 6, 2005

Rice says Russia must commit to democracy

February 6, 2005

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— Russia needs to show a commitment to a free press and other "basics of democracy," and cooperate with former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine where democracy is taking hold, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

Rice, moving quickly through Europe on her first trip as President Bush's chief diplomat, also said European diplomats seemed eager to put in the past the estrangement caused by the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld said as much after meeting with Rice in Warsaw. Poland was an early and durable participant in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But the stationing of Polish troops there has proved unpopular.

Russia, also critical of the war, has retreated during President Vladimir Putin's tenure from some of the democratic advances since the collapse of communist rule. Putin has consolidated economic and political power and clamped down on the press.

"We have concerns, and we've made it clear, about internal developments in Russia," Rice said in Poland.

"It is important that Russia make clear to the world that it is intent on strengthening the rule of law, strengthening the role of the independent judiciary, permitting a free and independent press to flourish," Rice said. "These are all the basics of democracy."

Rice's eight-day trip is focusing on European ties and the prospects for peace in the Middle East. An additional goal is laying the groundwork for Bush's summit meeting with Putin on Feb. 24 in Slovakia.

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