In an echo of President Bush's "axis of evil," Condoleezza Rice (search) on Tuesday named Cuba, Myanmar, Belarus and Zimbabwe as "outposts of tyranny" requiring close U.S. attention.
Early in Bush's first term, he listed Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" (search) in the post-Sept. 11 era; the United States later invaded Iraq, ousting longtime dictator Saddam Hussein.
"To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny and America stands with oppressed people on every continent ... in Cuba, and Burma (Myanmar), and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe," Rice told a Senate committee considering her nomination to succeed Colin Powell as secretary of state.
A look at U.S. tensions with the countries Rice named:
President Alexander Lukashenko (search), first elected in 1994, has stifled dissent and persecuted independent media and opposition parties while prolonging his power through elections that international organizations say were marred by fraud. The United States has refused to recognize his election.
The United States has repeatedly criticized Lukashenko for restricting freedom of speech, press and freedom of association and assembly. The United States maintains close ties with the opposition while seeking to foster democracy in the former Soviet republic.
The Belarus government responded to Rice's remarks by saying she was out of touch.
"The mention of Belarus in Condoleezza Rice's announcement shows that her conception of Belarus is, unfortunately, as yet quite far from reality," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh told The Associated Press.
"False stereotypes and prejudices are a poor basis for the formation of effective policy in the sphere of foreign relations," Savinykh said. "We are certain that only constructive dialogue, based on common sense and existing realties, will foster the normalization of relations between our countries."
Cuban authorities have long said the U.S. government is planning a military attack on the island — something U.S. officials deny. U.S.-Cuba relations, never good during Fidel Castro's (search) four decades of communist rule, have deteriorated further under the Bush administration, which has toughened trade and travel regulations and last year published a plan for a democratic Cuba after Castro's eventual death.
The United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since shortly after Castro took power.
The U.S. government has regularly criticized Cuba's roundup of 75 dissidents in 2003, and the State Department did so once again less than 48 hours after Bush's re-election.
"The United States condemns the Cuban regime's abuse of advocates of peaceful change and reform," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Nov. 4. "We call on the regime to cease its repression and release all political prisoners."
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been ruled by the military for more than four decades. The regime is shunned by many Western countries, but the United States has been one of the most aggressive in isolating it with political and economic sanctions.
The United States accuses the junta of human rights abuses including the use of slave labor and forced labor, and the persecution of pro-democracy activists and ethnic minorities.
Washington has criticized the regime for failing to surrender power in 1990 to the democratically elected party of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (search), the opposition leader who has repeatedly been put under house arrest.
Washington cut off almost all direct aid to Myanmar after the military suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988, killing hundreds, or even thousands of civilians.
Almost all U.S. aid to Myanmar is prohibited and imports from the country are banned. The United States uses its influence in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to block assistance to the country, one of Southeast Asia's poorest.
Washington also says Myanmar is a major producer of illicit drugs. After Afghanistan, it is the world's second biggest producer of heroin.
The United States says the government of President Robert Mugabe (search), in a bid to remain in office at any price, has continued a campaign of violence against the opposition and passed a series of draconian security and media laws aimed at crushing political dissent.
Washington contends Mugabe's security forces and ruling party militias have killed, abducted, tortured, beaten, abused and raped government opponents. It says the government also has beaten, intimidated, arrested and prosecuted independent journalists.
Bush has imposed targeted sanctions against Mugabe, his governing elite and some businessmen closely associated with him or his party.
Mugabe claims the United States and Britain are working to bring down the government and are responsible for political and economic chaos in Zimbabwe.
The State Department said last year that some government policies are "contributing to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe.