Rice Speaks Against Belarus Dictator

As you read this ask yourself, “Could this event happened today if it were not for the bold resolve of the US and Allies in confronting Saddam’s Iraq?”

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice spoke about “the last true dictatorship in Europe” in Vilnius, Lithuania, today as she met with Belarus Opposition Leaders:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared to meet members of the Belarus opposition after urging change in the former Soviet republic she calls central Europe’s remaining dictatorship.

Rice was to confer with a delegation of seven Belarussian activists opposed to the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko outside a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in the Lithuanian capital on Thursday.

The session will come a day after the chief US diplomat stepped up the rhetoric against Lukashenko as the steward of “the last true dictatorsip in the center of Europe.”

“It is time for change to come to Belarus,” she told a news conference Wednesday on arriving in neighboring Lithuania.

After the pro-democracy revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, Washington has trained its sights on its long-time nemesis Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an increasingly autocratic hand since 1994.

The landlocked state of 10 million people, still heavily dependent on Russian economic subsidies, has become the latest focus of President George W. Bush’s drive to promote freedom worldwide.

President Bush signed the Belarus Democracy Act in the fall:

Bush signed the Belarus Democracy Act last October, clearing the way for US financial aid to non-governmental groups mounting reform projects as well as radio and television broadcasts aimed at Belarussians.

“There are organizations there and civil society groups that are crying out for the rest of the world to acknowledge them and to give them a place to make a home,” Rice told CNN on Wednesday.

“So, yes, we are continuing to work to promote democratic development,” she said. “And I think that we’re making some progress.”

Belarus was understandably upset with the remarks:

The future of Belarus will be determined by the nation’s people and not U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Belarussian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov told Interfax in Minsk on Wednesday.

“The Belarussian people choose a government, and it is for Belarussian people and not Condoleezza Rice to decide about the future of the country,” he said.

Earlier, Rice had called Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government the last dictatorship in Europe.

Condi’s remarks did not get the approval of a CIS official, either:

The statements that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently made about Belarus in Moscow and Vilnius do not comply with international law standards, CIS first deputy executive secretary Dmitry Bulakhov told Interfax on Thursday.

“Rice’s statement does not fit in the framework of international law. Not a single country in the world has the right to dictate its will to sovereign states. Not a single state in the world has the right to impose its judgements about current events on other sovereign countries,” Bulakhov said.

An EU delegation also met with the Belarus Opposition Leaders today:

The EU Council has confirmed reports that Javier Solana, the European Union`s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, plans to meet with representatives of Belarus` pro-democratic political parties and non-governmental organizations while in Vilnius on April 21.

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