After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made stops in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and later to Tajikistan, she was not about to put up with any silliness from the Ex-Soviet Autocratic President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on Thursday!
After their opening remarks, the Kazakh Leader left his podium. That is when Condi chased him down and brought him back to the podium to answer reporter’s questions!
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stops the Kazakh leader in his tracks and gestures to reporters during their press conference in Astana, October 13, 2005. Condoleezza chased down Nazarbayev after their opening remarks. She stopped him in his tracks and brought him back to the stage to answer questions!… Not exactly the sort of thing Nazarbayev is used to,… on many fronts! Rice visited Kazakhstan on Thursday as part of her regional tour. (Reuters)
And, from Andrea Koppel’s question you can see why!
(from US State Department)
QUESTION: Andrea Koppel with CNN. I have a question for both of you. Mr. President, one of your daughters controls the media. The other controls the main bank here. The opposition, the political opposition, is routinely harassed, arrested. What evidence is there that you are anything more than a dictator?
Ouch! (She may want to tone it down some or she may end up like Andrea Mitchell from NBC.)
PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV: (Via interpreter.) What I said about the freedom of speech, I said I underlined that it should not be a freedom of misinformation. So I think that our opposition has provided you with some…(blah, blah,…)
SECRETARY RICE: Andrea, I think if we were interested only in oil and the war on terrorism we would not be speaking in the way that we are about democracy here or in Saudi Arabia or throughout the Middle East.
And so quite clearly, while we do have interests in terms of resources and in terms of the struggle for terrorism, we have in no way allowed those interests to get in the way of our open and clear defense of freedom.
We have talked about that in any number of circumstances. I think that, for instance, in Uzbekistan it’s been very clear that we do not see a conflict between our strategic interests and in our interests in democracy. In fact, we’ve spoken up clearly in that case. I’m here talking, on camera, with the President about the need for Kazakhstan to have free and fair elections; to have international observation of those elections; to have access to media for the opposition. I met, after the speech, with two people who will be a part of the campaign. And I will take their concerns with me to Washington and we will press for free and fair elections here, just as we pressed for free and fair elections everywhere else in the world.
And so our position is consistent around the world. The need for democratic change and the need for opposition to be able to express themselves freely and we expect the same of Kazakhstan.
Condoleezza will make another unplanned stop in Moscow tomorrow as she works her way back to the states.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stands with female members of the Afghanistan military during a visit to the Pakistan Air Force base in Chaklala to witness multinational relief efforts in progress October 12, 2005. The United States government is participating in a multinational humanitarian assistance and support effort lead by the Pakistani government to bring aid to victims of the devastating earthquake that struck the region October 8, 2005. (Reuters)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday gently pressed the rulers of two former Soviet states to liberalize their democracies, recalling Washington’s balancing act with friendly dictators during the Cold War.
Rice said the United States would not trade away democratic principles in the interest of stability. But she refrained from direct public criticism of leaders such as Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev, whose government disbanded a main opposition party and banned demonstrations around a scheduled Dec. 4 presidential election.
“Central Asia is a region that has not had a democratic past,” Rice said after a meeting with Tajikistan’s authoritarian president, Imomali Rakhmonov. Like Nazarbayev, he is a wily veteran of the old Soviet hierarchy.
Rakhmonov’s government has jailed several former loyalists and opposition leaders, including a prominent politician who was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison just before Rice’s visit.
“The important issue is to take these countries where they are and see them make progress,” Rice said.