WASHINGTON – From the first moments of his second term, President Bush has talked about spreading democracy. On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled the U.S. annual report on what the government is doing about it.
"Freedom's work has most assuredly just begun. In all that lies ahead, our nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression and freedom," Rice told reporters.
The 300-page report mandated by Congress supplements the State Department's annual country-by-country report on human rights, which was released last month. This version covers the 98 countries with the worst human rights records.
In the process of pushing human rights reforms, Rice deals with world leaders while aides and foreign-service personnel press the agenda with dissidents and non-governmental organizations. The report is sometimes vague about specifics taken by these diplomats, referring often to "urging" others to do better on voting rights, religious freedoms and slave trading.
But in some instances, the report gets quite specific. For example, it details the U.S. response to the jailing of Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour (search), later released pending trial.
"The United States raised concerns publicly and at the highest levels with Egyptian officials in Cairo and Washington about Nour's arrest and reports of mistreatment ... [suggesting] that Nour's arrest was politically motivated and that it portended poorly for democracy in Egypt, coming at the beginning of an election year," the report states.
In Iran, where the United States has no embassy, the State Department, citing "limited special authority" granted by Congress, paid undisclosed sums to Iranian educators and human rights activists to document abuses by the radical Islamic government. The United States also piped in Persian-language radio and Internet programming.
Regarding China, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials spoke directly with Chinese leaders on human rights issues. In Saudi Arabia, the United States sponsored seminars on female leadership. In Syria, English lessons were offered to underprivileged students. In Sudan, 1,300 interviews detailed acts of genocide. .
In Pakistan, NGOs led programs to strengthen labor unions. The report also described contacts with Islamabad's admirals and generals.
"The United States continued to encourage the Pakistani military to play an appropriate role in the emerging democratic set-up and to refrain from interference in domestic politics," the report reads.
As the section on Pakistan makes clear, some countries with poor human rights records get better treatment from the U.S. than others. Last week, the United States rewarded Pakistan for its counterterrorism support with a green light to purchase more than a dozen F-16 (search) jet fighter planes. The report casts the sale in terms of an overall security boost for the region, including India and Afghanistan.
On Monday, thousands of opposition activists — supporters of a coalition of radical Islamic groups — rallied in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan, chanting "Death to dictatorship!" in the latest demonstration against President Pervez Musharraf's (search) grip on power.
Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak said the demonstration might reflect an easing of restrictions by the government. "When you open up a situation, people make their views known," he said.
Kozak, the State Department's top human rights official, added that some inconsistencies seem unfair. He said that foreign governments sometimes misunderstand why the United States cares about the issue.
"They tend to always want to dismiss it as a mask for something else. And that's the dirty secret, is that it's not a mask. It's in our own interests, our own security interests," he said.
The administration is also trying to persuade the European allies not to lift an embargo on weapons sales to China.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' James Rosen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.