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Boucher Students' Roundtable Dushanbe, Tajikistan

University Students' Roundtable at the American Corner in the Library of the Academy of Sciences

Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs; Richard Hoagland, U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan; Elisabeth Millard, NSC Senior Director for South and Central Asian Affairs

Dushanbe, Tajikistan
May 8, 2006

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I have had a lot of meetings today with different people; government people: the President, the Foreign Minister, some political parties, and people who work for non-governmental organizations, but I always like to meet with students. I like to meet with students in the United States as well because they ask interesting, important, and sometimes difficult questions. So, I will not talk too much and will rely on you to ask anything you want about anything at all. If I can answer, I will. And if I can't, I won't.

We attach a lot of importance to Tajikistan now. As you know, it is a difficult region. You have Afghanistan next door; you have other neighbors that are not always friendly. But it is a region that has enormous potential. It is potential that we talk about in terms of electricity, roads, and trade. But it is also potential in terms of education and learning traditions of this region. It is potential in terms of the young people growing up and getting new kinds of education, in finding new opportunities, we hope, with a more open economy and a more open political environment. So that is really what we talked about today with the leaders. We talked about how we can make opportunities, things that you will use eventually. Some of these electricity projects will take five to ten years to get off the ground, but you will be the ones who will turn on the light-bulbs in the future and use the electricity. So, I think in the end, you were what we were talking about. Whatever the United States is doing here to help Tajikistan with its own independence, with its own borders, with its own economy, with its electricity, and with its trade, is all for the future. We hope we can help make that future better. Now we have the rest of the hour to talk about what you want to and to ask any questions you want.

QUESTION: Would you please tell us what is the purpose of your visit?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: The first purpose of my visit is to come and learn and to come and listen. I just started this job working on both South and Central Asia, and [NSC Senior Director] Elisabeth [Millard] just started at the White House doing the same thing. Before we start making big policies, we need to find out what is going on here on the ground. That is purpose number one.

Purpose number two is to explore a lot of ideas going around that we have talked about Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, about how we can link the region together. It is not to take away from any of the links that you have with Europe, Russia, or China, but it is to add to that more opportunities to the south. It is a big historic change in this region. It used to be that it was not only the end of the Soviet Union, but also that Afghanistan was always an obstacle to cooperation. But Afghanistan has changed, for the better. So when we build a road in Afghanistan, we are building a bridge to Tajikistan. When we build an electric system for Afghanistan, we are building links with Tajikistan and Pakistan. So we are really talking about getting more specific about big ideas. Talking about how to get a good road from Almaty to Karachi, and what that requires, such as roads, tunnels, and bridges, a lot of things. How to get the energy from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan down into the market of Pakistan and India because those are big growing economies where they can use this energy. The question is how to connect all this together. So, I say this is the biggest focus.

We are talking about Tajikistan itself. Talking about border security, how can we help keep narcotics out of here, how we can help Tajikistan grow democracy, how can we help the plans to make the presidential election a good and fair election. We came here to talk about those things, but hopefully to move from talking to funding and action.

QUESTION: It used to appear that the USSR was trying to drive the entire world to Communism. Do you think America is trying to drive the entire world to democracy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I do not think we see it that way. We see people making choices around the world. We have all signed the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. We have all seen people in different countries say, "I want to choose, I want to choose my own life, I want to choose my shirts, choose my family, choose my husband, my wife, I want to choose my leaders." It is a fundamental right that everybody should enjoy. We see people around the world say that they want to make their own choices. Democracy is merely a system, a series of arrangements, so that people have their own choices and you do not have someone telling you what to do. Sometimes they are big choices; sometimes they are little choices. I guess we believe, sincerely, that we all agree that people deserve certain basic rights. They should be able to exercise those choices, and there are many ways of doing that.

There are many kinds of democracy. There are different systems in different countries in Europe or the United States and Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. There are lots of different democracies. There are democracies in Africa that are organized differently. They all have that fundamental foundation, and that is respect for people, respect for their right to choose how they want to live their life and how they want to be governed.

QUESTION: We are very interested in listening to U.S. radio. Sometimes I sit up until two o'clock in the morning to listen to Voice of America. Is it possible to open a U.S. radio station in Tajikistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Good question. Funny, when I was young I used to lie in bed and listen to the radio until one or two in the morning because at night you can get stations from far away. I think the question you are asking in the end, is a question about Tajikistan's licensing regulations. Whether it is possible for them to allow foreign broadcasting or just a transmission of broadcasts. We are definitely interested in making information available about America. That is why we have American Corners. We have a lot of information available on the Internet, but radio is one of the things we are looking at. We want to have people be able to see us, good things, bad things, whatever, just to understand more about the United States. To understand more about our foreign policies, more about our relationship with this part of the world. Maybe even to have more sources of information on their own countries and developments in Central Asia. There are already some radio stations that do that. In most countries, if they want to allow local transmitters to set up, it is not too difficult to broadcast locally. I know when I was in Hong Kong there was a BBC transmitter, so you could listen to the BBC anywhere in Hong Kong. It was the London BBC, not something produced locally. These things are possible, but I do not know if Tajikistan allows that sort of retransmission broadcast. If you have a satellite connection, of course, you can watch some of the international news stations.

QUESTION: We know that today you met with our President. We would like to know what problems you discussed, and maybe something you didn't tell the press?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: (Laughter) What I didn't tell the press? What I didn't tell the press is that he asked me for more scholarships and student exchanges. One of my jobs is to go back and find more money for those things, because he puts a lot of emphasis on that, and I put a lot of emphasis on that. The basic open-door foreign policy, we think, is a good one and opens up cooperation with us and with many others. In the long run, it is very important for Tajikistan to be that kind of nation, to be a nation that will work with others. Because, eventually, that is where you will find markets, where you will find wealth and you will find ideas, and how you will be able to establish your presence in the region. A lot of that is education and the exchange of ideas, which has happened in this region for centuries. It needs to happen again. I think the educational exchange system is very important. We have some 100 students from Tajikistan every year that go to the United States to study for a short or longer time. We need to do more of that. President Rahmonov asked me to do more, so we will try to do more.

QUESTION: As you know, many students in Tajikistan are interested in studying abroad, especially in the United States. I'd like to know if it is possible to increase the number of exchange programs for Tajikistan.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think it is. We have a number of different exchange programs. We realize it is very expensive to go to school in the United States. Some of you might get scholarships from universities. Some of you may get support from the U.S. government or your own government. We certainly welcome all the students that can go. We try to work with students to make sure their enrollments are good and their visas are done smoothly. Our Embassy will work with any students that are trying to go to the United States to study. A lot of our education exchanges are more short-term, a few months, maybe a year. There are a variety of scholarship programs. I have met a number who have gone there and come back, and I think they are very good. We hope we can offer that opportunity to many more people. It works out to be money. We have to get the money from our Congress, and we have to spread the money out to a lot of countries, but it is something I think is very important and something that President Bush and Secretary Rice think is very important. So, we are always trying to get more money and do more. I am fairly confident we can get more for Tajikistan, as well as for other places.

QUESTION: Regarding education in the U.S. People that want to go there must show that they have a large amount of money, like $3,000. Will you people help those of us that don't have that much money?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Yes but not everybody. It is expensive, we recognize that. We can help some people every year with their travel and education expenses. Sometimes, there are private and university scholarships you can get. So if you start working on it, you might be able to develop a whole package of things that can support you as a student. I know it is not easy. You have to look into it quite a bit to make it happen. Certainly, we try to do things through our Embassy and try to support students where we can. But they have to take the examinations and be among the best of the best.

AMBASSADOR HOAGLAND: May I add something to that? Your Ambassador in Washington, Homrahon Zaripov, thinks that this is very important, also. In recent years he has worked very hard to build partnerships between American universities and universities here. A good one that is growing right now is with the University of Montana. And he is working on a new one with a University from the State of Kansas. These kinds of partnerships are going to create new scholarships for Tajik students to go to the United States. It is in the building process right now, but it looks very promising.

QUESTION: We learn a lot from the Internet. My question is what is your aim in developing Central Asia? What about Iran? There is no doubt that there is a possibility of war between the U.S. and Iran. There are missiles pointed at each other. What is your opinion? Will there be an invasion of Iran by the U.S.? What will be the influence, both positive and negative, for such an event on Central Asia, and particularly our country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: The first thing about Iran is to understand that we are trying to solve the problems of Iran with diplomatic action. We are working with Europe, we are working with Russia, and we are working with China. There will be action now from Vienna, New York, and the U.N. Security Council. Because that is where we think Iran should be held accountable and that is where we think Iran should respond. We try to deal with problems in a diplomatic manner. We are putting a lot of effort and a lot of diplomacy into trying to change Iran's plans. Iran, unfortunately, is creating a lot of trouble. They have been pursuing a nuclear weapon, and that would be an enormous source of instability for this region. It would threaten all of their neighbors. They have been interfering in Iraq and the politics there, making Iraq more unstable and harder for things to settle down. They have been using money and support for the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas to threaten peace in the Middle East and threaten efforts to reach a peaceful settlement. So, I think we are very concerned about what Iran has been doing. We think it is a source of instability for many in the region. We are trying to solve these problems diplomatically, and President Bush has made that clear. Secretary Rice has been personally involved, other State Department officials are very active in working with the Security Council to try to deal with the issue, particularly the issue of Iran's attempt to get nuclear weapons.

DIRECTOR MILLARD: I would just like to add to that the President has said many times that we have no problems at all with the people of Iran, in fact, we want to reach out to the people of Iran. We have no problem if they want to develop energy, nuclear energy. It is the bombs that cause the problem. Nuclear weapons would be very destabilizing. So, that is what we have problems with, what many other countries have problems with, and we are trying to solve it diplomatically.

QUESTION: What does your President want from Iran?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: He wants Iran to live peacefully with its neighbors. He wants them to live peacefully with Iraq, with other countries in the Middle East, with Israel, with the Palestinians. Many of these terrorists groups have been blowing up Palestinians for years now, and Iran supports them with money and arms. He wants Iran to start pursuing energy as energy, and not to pursue the elements that form nuclear weapons. An Iran that wants to live peacefully in the neighborhood and not pursue nuclear weapons. But the thing is, right now, what they are doing is bad for the neighborhood and bad for us.

QUESTION: Why is it that America is allowed to produce nuclear weapons and Iran is not?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: For many years, there have been five recognized nuclear powers in the world, and those nuclear powers have been reducing their nuclear weapons. We have gone from tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, down to 6,000 or so, and we have a treaty with Russia that in five years or so, we will reach about 3,000. As we are reducing nuclear weapons, we do not think it helpful for other countries to start producing them. What good does it do Iran, what good does it do the Iranian people for them to spend money on nuclear weapons? What good does it do the people of the region to have Iran develop nuclear weapons? It is a destabilizing thing for the neighborhood.

Also, Iran has international obligations. Iran has signed treaties. Iran has made promises not to do enrichment. Iran has made promises to allow inspectors in to help make sure the program is safe. One by one, Iran has been tearing up these agreements and violating its commitments. We want Iran to do what it has always promised to do, and to abide by those commitments. The Russians have been willing to build a nuclear reactor in Iran. If they need nuclear energy, they can get it that way. But, Iran has violated those commitments as well. The Russians have made promises, made offers, and at times the Iranians have said they were interested, and then they walked away. I do not know what Iran is doing. The only thing in terms of its diplomacy, and in terms of a pattern of what they have been doing with their nuclear program, is definitely directed towards building weapons. And that is dangerous.

QUESTION: You say Iran is currently enriching uranium, which you say is for nuclear weapons. The President of Iran says it is for only peaceful purposes. How do you reconcile this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think, first of all, this has been going on for a long time and I remember during the last years of the Soviet Union our then-Secretary of State raised this with the Soviet Foreign Minister, because there were indications that Iran was not just doing peaceful nuclear work, but rather was working on weapon systems. Over the years, we have seen more and more evidence. You can read the reports of the International Atomic Energy Association. They show that Iran is working in areas that go beyond peaceful use. They go into things that are needed for weapons. We know that they have tried to work on the missile side, to match a weapon and a missile. We know they have acquired documents that have to do with making weapons. So, there are many indicators, and I think the people in the international community, including the reports of the International Atomic Energy Association, show that this is not just peaceful. If this was peaceful, they could have the safeguards, have the inspectors, they could have the Russian deal, and they could have the advantages that Europe offered them, and have peaceful nuclear power. But, if it was purely peaceful, why would they be tearing up their agreements and kicking out the inspectors? So, unfortunately, I know he says that, but, it is not true.

QUESTION: The United States is looking to solve these problems. Do you think you can? Look at how Iraq is still not stable with the problems between the Sunnis and Shiites. How will you solve Iran?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We can talk about Iraq later if you want. On the question about Iran, we can solve this diplomatically. I think we and others have made clear that there are advantages for Iran if they solve this diplomatically. There are many opportunities for Iran in terms of trade, in terms of relationships with Europe, relationships with Russia and others that will happen if they solve this diplomatically. If Iran wants to be a member in good standing of the international community, if they want to have peaceful relations with its neighbors, they can solve this diplomatically.

I also think it is important for Iran to understand what we are doing in the Security Council. Iran should understand that if they continue to pursue this course, there will be consequences. We will not just stand up and make speeches, but will go to the United Nations to seek U.N. resolutions that impose restrictions, sanctions, or penalties on Iran for tearing up its international commitments and for making the world a more dangerous place. If Iran does not feel any penalty from pursuing nuclear weapons, maybe they will not stop. They have not been willing to stop for the benefits and advantages of having a normal relationship with the world. Maybe they will stop if they feel the penalties that can be imposed by the Security Council. We at least have to try. That is why I say we are pursing a diplomatic course.

QUESTION: Now you can see that Iraq is like Hell. When will you finish the war in Iraq?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Let me try to explain what is going on there. There are a lot of problems in Iraq. There are problems of development. There are problems between the Shiites and Sunnis. There are many problems left over from Saddam Hussein's time. There are problems in the economy and the oil industry. There are problems from interference from other countries which we are trying to help the Iraqis deal with.

They have done a lot of things. They have formed a government, they have their sovereignty, and they have their constitution. They have had elections and turned out in enormous numbers, just to make their own choices on their leadership. These people who are now in parliament are elected by the Iraqi people. Millions and millions of people turned out to vote. The first time there was an election in Iraq, there were not good voter lists, and no one knew how many voters there would be. Some said four million, some said five million, and some said six million Iraqis would come to vote. Eight to nine million turned out to vote. So the system has gotten better and better politically. There are parts of the country that are calm and stable, and that are developing.

There are parts of the economy that are operating well, and there are a lot of parts that have problems. There are places where there are a lot of security problems. We are trying to deal with the security problems. At the same time, we are trying to train the Iraqis so that they can take care of their own country. Because, in the end, the goal is to turn the country back to the Iraqis so that they can run their own country and deal with their own problems. This has been a slow process in some ways. There is a lot of training to be done. There is a lot of equipment, organization, economic opportunity, and things like that to be done.

But I think more and more the Iraqis are able to control places and to take over security. In some provinces, Iraqis are the lead on security. In large parts of Baghdad, the Iraqis are in the lead on security.

So, we will be able to leave when two things happen. One, as things calm down in different places, we can apply our security measures. Also, as the Iraqis rise in their capabilities and are able to cope to take care of it themselves, we can reduce our presence. From the time we arrived in Iraq, we said we were leaving when the Iraqis could take care of themselves. In the end, that is our only goal. Let's let the people of Iraq control Iraq, and that is what we are going to do.

QUESTION: We know the U.S. government has been criticized for the wrong policy concerning Iraq and the mass media does not report on the death of civilians. When will the U.S. recall its forces?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: First, the media does report on the death of civilians. Some of these people die because of the rebels, because of the insurgents, some of these people have died in Sunni/Shiite violence. Some of the most horrible attacks that killed the most people were attacks on mosques and places like that. Some of these people die because there is fighting and they get caught. Frankly, there is crime in Iraq, too. The media does report on it. President Bush has talked about it, he has talked about the estimates. It is hard to get a clear handle on the whole number, it is harder to get a handle on what kind of violence is harming these people.

We will start withdrawing, but I can't tell you when. We are seeing the Iraqis become more capable. We are seeing some parts of the country become calmer. What is going on already is that U.S. forces are pulling back from some of the cities and letting the Iraqi forces handle security. We are there to support them, but they are in the lead. I think, that is the first phase, and as they are able to take over responsibilities, we will start pulling down our forces. I cannot give you an exact timetable or numbers, just because the situation is not settled enough yet and Iraqis are still developing their capabilities.

QUESTION: What do you think about Muslims in America? Did American views about Muslims change after 9/11?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States. I have met with a lot of Muslims when I traveled around the United States over the last year and I would always go to the universities and talk to the students. I would also go and visit the local Muslim community. They have some complaints. Everybody has complaints in America. Part of life. But, they also have a lot of pride in what they have been able to accomplish, whether immigrants or even second or third generation Muslims. They have mosques and civic organizations. They have lobbying organizations. Mostly what I get is they want to help. They want to help Americans understand Muslim life and they want to help foreigners understand the situation of Muslims in America.

Sometimes, we help support their travel to other countries as speakers. You had a young American Muslim here recently from the Muslim Public Affairs Council. They are more and more active, and more and more active in terms of education about their community and also in terms of politics as well. So, I think you will see them if you go on the Internet and look for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. You will see a lot of their publications and a lot of their activities.

QUESTION: I want to ask you if you really think that in 20-30 years Tajikistan can be a highly-developed country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Higher developed, yes! Depends on you to some extent. Development is sometimes a long process, and the most important thing is to get started and to get started in the right way.

I was in China thirty years ago. All over China, people were very, very poor. They have done a lot. There are still poor people in China. There are still development problems in China, but there are lots of people, hundreds of millions of people in China that live better lives than ever before.

Same with India. Hundreds of millions of people who live better lives than ever before. Country after country, Pakistan and elsewhere, you see that there is a core of development going on and it is based on an open economy. It is based on finding new opportunities, and I think Tajikistan can do that.

Tajikistan has assets. It has mountains, water, hydropower, and minerals. It has trading opportunities. It has people who are smart and well-educated. So, I think there can definitely be a core of development here. There can be prosperity for a lot of people in Tajikistan, but I cannot promise you everybody will be at the same level or that there will not be some problems you still have to deal with. We find in the United States that as soon as you solve one problem, there is another one behind it. So, it is a constant effort, but I think a lot of people in Tajikistan can find these opportunities.

Just think about a road. You build a road from Almaty to Karachi. With a little more investment you can build processing plants to package fruits and vegetables, flowers. Then you can start selling your flowers to the north and the south, in China, too. Farmers can find new opportunities if we build them the roads. Electricity, you know, is how you will create revenue for the country, and then you can start investing in education and development. So, I think there are a lot of things that can happen, if we can take care of some of these fundamental things.

QUESTION: I want to ask you if you think our government is very democratic or if it is conservative. Would it be good for it to change or does it need change?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We all need reforms. It is interesting that some of the things we have been talking about today with your government are things that are still discussed in the United States. Access to the media by candidates and how election commissions work in different places to provide stability. I guess we could say that Tajikistan is looking in the right direction and maybe moving in the right direction. There is always more to do, and there are some fundamental things that I think Tajikistan has not yet done, like providing chances for all the candidates to appear on television or making sure the rules of the election commission are updated to international standards. To make sure they are followed all the way down the chain to make sure that workers at the election place do things right.

The whole goal is for the people of Tajikistan to choose their leaders and their government. To do that, you need to have their choices respected, and their votes have to be respected and counted and reported accurately. Yes, more reforms are needed. That is not a condemnation. It is just saying that the direction that the President has set, the direction the government has set of having a democratic society, of having a fair election in the fall, is the right direction. There are steps to carry that out, and we hope we can help with those steps.

QUESTION: I want to ask about globalization. What will the result be in the future?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I believe very strongly in globalization, probably more than some of the thinkers in the United States. I have seen the results of open economies. I have seen the results in Hong Kong, Chile, Africa, Poland. Many different kinds of economies have found that opening themselves up to opportunities in investment, opening to new ideas, has brought prosperity, has brought more freedom, more choices. Even in places that are still tightly controlled, like China. Chinese students that I have known over 20 or 30 years, I know that their lives improved the more China opened up. That is why I said the open-door policy for Tajikistan is a good one for the people. It gives opportunities and choices to people. This is what globalization is about.

You can get on the Internet, you can read American newspapers everyday if you want, but I can get on the internet and read the Pakistani and Indian newspapers. I can see news from everywhere, I can learn, not just what my people say about it, but what people in this country say about it. We have all heard the stories of Internet businesses where someone had a small product in a small place and now he has a world market. A guy in Australia who makes parts for very old cars is now exporting to all the countries in the world because he is on the Internet.

Our economy has been made better from all the things we buy from around the world. If you really look at the impact of the U.S. economy on the world, it is not just the assistance programs that we give, but also the $300-400 million in goods that we import more than we export. That creates jobs. It creates opportunities. Creates opportunities for people in China, India, and people here. It is an expanding world.

Some people say globalization is about Americans, American values, and American products, but I think we see it as about the whole world. It is about everybody finding a place in the whole world, so you are not limited to your corner or your little neighborhood. You can have relationships with people in South America if you want. If you are starting a non-governmental organization to work with women, for example, on their rights or on their health care, you can talk to people who are doing the same thing in Lithuania or South Africa or doing the same thing in Brazil. You can share ideas. It is much easier than ever before. We can get news from all over the world, and you can, too. The more you know, the more you can make up your own mind. So, I see all these as good.

But is it only good? No. Part of global trading is global trading of narcotics. Part of freedom to travel is that there are people, particularly women, that are moved around the world as slaves. Part of globalization is that crime has traveled on the same information networks. Part of globalization, is that groups like al-Qa'ida have used the Internet to communicate and to talk to people like them in other countries. And so it requires new efforts from the government and the people to stop these things to make sure that globalization is a benefit to people and not a danger. I think we can do that. I think we can do that within the principles of a free society . You can find your own place, you can find your own opportunities, but you also have to be a little bit vigilant to make sure that the dangers do not come with it.

QUESTION: We are very sorry for 9/11. When will the new skyscrapers be built?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: About a month ago we chose the final plans, and there is some construction going on building the memorial. If you check the Internet, you will be able to find pictures of it. They are going to rebuild something that New Yorkers will be proud of and people can look at and say, "You can destroy the buildings, but we are going to maintain our society. Maintain our pride and our strengths."

QUESTION: You are building a huge new Embassy here in Dushanbe. What is the aim of this new Embassy? Also, a few days ago in Vilnius Vice President Cheney spoke about the lack of democracy in Russia. Is this interference or friendly advice?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It is a friendly reaction. It is important to read the whole speech that VP Cheney gave because he talked about Russia. He talked about our new relationship with Russia, and how important it is. Russia is not an enemy. I think we all recognize we are not talking about the Soviet Union, we are talking about Russia. We are talking about the people of Russia who have more opportunity and more choice in their lives than they did in the Soviet period. We are also talking about some disturbing trends. If an individual in Russia chooses to start a newspaper or wants to start a television station, does he have the opportunity to do that? If he wants to run for parliament, or make choices in his life to join an organization, a non-government organization, does he have the right to do that? Are people who speak out politically respected or are they disadvantaged? Are they fired from their jobs? So, it really comes back to what kind of respect there is for the individual. For a long time we saw Russia moving in a positive direction. We were very positive about that, we praised that. I think when we see our friend moving backwards, we have to express our concern. It is a friendly country. It is a partner country in many ways. It is a country with which we share many interests. We recognize that Russia is not the Soviet Union. Russia is an independent country. People in Russia deserve the chance to make choices. They should not be choices imposed from the top; they should be choices made at the bottom.

The new U.S. Embassy. The purpose of the Embassy is to serve you better. It is a better place for diplomats to work, and a better place for Tajik students to come to get visas to go to the United States. We will have a better place to run our public information and scholarship programs, as well as support for our anti-narcotics program. I have been in the place they work in now. It is not too bad, but it is very unusual. It is very crowded. It is not as safe as we would like it to be. Actually, we are building new embassies around the region. We have a new embassy in Kyrgyzstan, built about five years ago. We are building a new embassy in Kazakhstan because we are moving to Astana. Building a new embassy in Nepal, and just finished a new one in Uzbekistan. I think it is a sign that this is an important area, and we want to be able to work here safely and productively for many years to come.

Released on May 10, 2006


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