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Public Statements

FY04 Appropriations for State Department

Location: Washington, DC

April 30, 2003 Wednesday

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As I was saying off-microphone, the secretary has to leave at 3:00 and so we'll limit our opening statements to Senator Leahy and myself, and the chairman, if he'd like to say something, and get right to it.

Welcome, Mr. Secretary, back before the subcommittee. Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to the president, his entire cabinet, and our soldiers and sailors for the quick and decisive victory in Iraq. Once again, we've affirmed that we have the best trained, equipped, and disciplined military in the world, and the best leaders on and off the battlefield. The victory in Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq, and the challenge now falls upon the coalition to repair damaged infrastructure, establish democratic institutions, invest the principles of freedom and justice in the consciousness and lives of the Iraqi people.

While Congress included $2.5 billion for these efforts in the war supplemental, the country's natural resources provide an advantage that will hopefully sustain and accelerate the reform and recovery process. The United Nations should immediately end the sanctions against Iraq so that the profits from these resources can go directly to the people of that country.

And I might just say, Mr. Secretary, I saw a fascinating op ed in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago suggesting that one way to convince the Iraqi people that they're going to benefit from the oil would be to set up a structure similar to what they have in the state of Alaska, where every Alaskan gets a check each year off of the oil revenue that state secures. So, I hope you and your people are taking a look at some creative ways to make sure—not every year?

SEN. TED STEVENS (R-AK): Not the oil revenue, but income from a fund created by a portion of the revenue.

SEN. MCCONNELL: In any event, Alaskans get checks. It's a demonstration of their sharing the wealth, shall I say.

While some believe that political transition in Iraq alone will be a harbinger of reform throughout the region, a more effective catalyst for change comes in the form of a trinity. First, a quick and successful democratic transition. Second, a workable road map for security and peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis that includes new Palestinian leadership that first and foremost actively combats terrorism. And third, a bold new approach to America's support of political and legal reforms across the region.

If this trinity is realized the impetus for political reform throughout the Middle East will be inevitable and unstoppable. The Arab street will find a voice in democratic institutions and through responsive leaders chosen by ballots, not bullets, bullying, or Israel-bashing.

The state of political reform in Egypt, including adherence to the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions provides a good barometer of democratic change in the region. I believe as goes Egypt, so goes the Middle East.

Shifting to North Korea, the hermit kingdom's ongoing bluster and its appalling repression of the North Korean people continue to be a grave concern I know to everyone. Although attention to North Korea's nuclear program may have been overshadowed by military operations in Iraq, I'm hopeful the State Department will continue to focus on the myriad challenges posed by this nation. From nuclear weapons to narcotics trafficking and a potential Northeast Asian nuclear arms race, the Korean regime poses a growing and dangerous threat to its neighbors and to us. Negotiating with North Korea is no small or easy task. This is a country that makes France look trustworthy.

Let me make a few comments on the fiscal '04 request for foreign operations.

Over $2 billion is requested for four new accounts that potentially offer more rapid responses to global crises. It would be helpful to the subcommittee if you could summarize the objectives of each of these accounts and provide greater detail on the management of these funds and overlap, if any, with existing foreign assistance programs.

The funding request has again been reduced for assistance for Eastern Europe and the Baltic States and assistance for the NIS by 86 billion and 179 -- 86 million and 179 million respectively below the fiscal '03 enacted levels. While I fully support graduating countries that receive U.S. aid, I remain concerned that too steep and rapid cuts may have unintended consequences.

A case in point is Serbia. The recent assassination of the Serbian prime minister has spurred a massive crackdown on organized crime, some of which is linked to cronies of Milosevic. It is clear that political, legal and economic reforms are still needed in Serbia, and instead of reducing assistance by $15 million, we should be considering additional support for programs and activities that actually bolster necessary reforms.

Let me wrap it up with just a few comments on Burma and Cambodia. As predicted, we've not seen progress in the dialogue between the State Peace and Development Council, SPDC, and Aung San Suu Kyi, since her release from house arrest. The news out of Burma reports no signs of reconciliation, only continued repression of the people of Burma by the SPDC, brutal rapes of ethnic girls and women and unwillingness to meet with the NLD, the U.N. special envoy and ethnic nationalities.

I applaud the State Department's recommendation to the White House that the regime in Burma should not be—not be certified as making progress or cooperating with the U.S. on narcotics matters. It's clear that additional sanctions against the junta in Rangoon are warranted, and I intend to introduce legislation to this effect in the very near future.

In Cambodia, the attacks early this year against Thai interests in Phnom Penh, including the destruction of the Thai embassy and the continuing assassination of opposition activists, monks and judges underscores the lawlessness and impunity that has become the hallmark of the ruling Cambodian People's Party. In such a climate, talk of a Khmer Rouge tribunal using Cambodian courts and judges makes no sense. As parliamentary elections are scheduled in three months time, I would encourage you to seize every opportunity to strengthen the hand of the democratic opposition in the run up to the polls.

With that, let me turn to Senator Leahy.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Mr. Secretary, I'm going to exercise the chairman's prerogative and ask the final question, and then we'll leave the record open for written questions for you and your staff to respond to.

Clearly one of the most outrageous and repressive regimes in the world is Burma. Nobody pays any attention to it. It abuses its people. It doesn't honor the results of the election that Aung San Suu Kyi won in 1990. What, if anything, could we or any of our allies do to try to bring about the recognition of the election that was fairly won some 13 years ago in Burma?

SEC. POWELL: Mr. Chairman, your characterization of Burma is absolutely correct. It is a despotic regime, and we condemn its policies. We condemn the manner in which they have kept Aung San Suu Kyi away from the political process and participation in civil society and civil life.

But it has been difficult to find a solution to crack the will of this ruling machine. We must continue to work within the U.N. framework, continuing to work with our Asian partners. I'm sure that when I attend meetings later this spring, in June, in the region with our ASEAN partners and --

SEN. MCCONNELL: Do any of the ASEAN partners care about this?

SEC. POWELL: They do, but they're at a loss also as to what to do. They care. Most of them are moving in the right direction, the direction we want them to move in, a democracy and representative government. But they have not yet generated the collective political will to apply the kind of pressures that might change the nature of this regime or this regime itself.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I know you've got a lot on your plate, but I would encourage you to pay some attention to this if you've got any time at all you could devote to it, because it truly is an outrageous regime.

SEC. POWELL: I shall, sir.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Thank you so much for being here.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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