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Rice: Belarus is 'dictatorship'


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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has denied that the Bush administration's policy of promoting freedom and democracy around the world is aimed at "fomenting revolution" but praised efforts by people in other countries to "throw off the yoke of tyranny."

In an interview Wednesday with CNN, Rice took aim at the leadership of Belarus, a former Soviet republic that is now an independent country.

While not naming Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Rice called Belarus "truly still the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe" and said she would hope "that you would begin to see some democratic development" in that country. (Full interview)

Rice added "if it brings about democratic progress, why is it a bad thing for people to throw off the yoke of tyranny and decide they want to control their own futures?"

There have been popular uprisings over the last year and a half in three former Soviet republics -- Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Lukashenko has condemned the political upheavals in those places as Western-inspired and vowed there will be no such "colored revolutions' emerging in his country.

This remark referred to Georgia's so-called "Rose Revolution," Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" and Kyrgyzstan's "Tulip Revolution."

Rice is in Moscow to prepare for President Bush's participation in upcoming celebrations May 9 that mark the end of World War II in Europe.

Asked about recent U.S. criticism of President Vladimir Putin's clampdown on independent media and centralization of power, Rice said Washington is raising the issues "not in an accusatory way ... not through a sense of criticism, but rather to try to talk about why democratic progress is so linked to Russia's future development as well as to the future of U.S.-Russian relations."

The secretary said the dismantling of Yukos Oil company and the upcoming verdict in the trial of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky is directly affecting Russia's relations with the West.

"I would hope that Russia recognizes that this is something that people are watching very carefully and this is going to have a tremendous impact on both how the investment climate and Russia's political future are going to be viewed in the international community," Rice told CNN.


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