Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nepal Palace Plans Gala Bash For King's 'diamond' Birthday

Wednesday 27th of June 2007

Nepal Palace Plans Gala Bash For King's 'diamond' Birthday

Wednesday 27th of June 2007 Ignoring calls by the prime minister to abdicate in favour of his five-year-old grandson, Nepal's King Gyanendra is throwing a lavish black-coat party in the palace next week to celebrate his 'diamond' birthday - just three months before the crucial election that could abolish his more than two-century-old crown.

Invitations have been issued in the name of Queen Komal to around 1,000 guests - the who's who of Nepal. They include Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who has asked the king and Crown Prince Paras to abdicate in favour of Paras' son, Hridayendra, in a last-ditch attempt to save the beleaguered crown.

The cocktail dinner, to be held at the Kaski hall of the Narayanhity royal palace July 6, has foreign diplomats, ministers, top politicians and industrialists on the invitation list. However, it remains to be seen how many would attend the bash that could be regarded as being politically incorrect.

Though the king turned 60 last year, a celebration was ruled out in July 2006 since he had been forced to surrender the power he had seized through a coup only two months before, due to a nationwide revolt against his 15-month regime.

In the past, Nepal used to celebrate the birthday of its reigning king as a national holiday. However, after King Gyanendra turned the country against him through his direct rule, the new government that came to power has power scrapped the holiday.

On July 7, the actual birthday, the palace gates will be opened to the public in the morning in adherence to the old tradition of allowing loyal subjects to come and pay their respects.

Despite the growing anti-monarchy feeling, royalists last year managed to put up a credible show of allegiance.

The festivities will continue till July 8, when the king will hold a reception in the palace.

As the palace gears up for the celebration, the government is readying to hold a constituent assembly election on Nov 22, when people will choose between monarchy and republic.

It will be the most expensive election Nepal has ever seen with the Election Commission asking for a budget of NRS 2 billion.

However, royalists, who have formed several parties and have applied to take part in the election, say they welcome the exercise that, if held in a free and fair manner, will show that the majority still want monarchy in Nepal.

Source: Click here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Full Text: Hearings of Nominees of US Ambassadors to Nepal, Pakistan and Countries in Asia before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

June 20, 2007 Wednesday

CAPITOL HILL HEARING

HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE;
SUBJECT: PENDING NOMINATIONS;
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA);
WITNESSES: ANNE WOODS PATTERSON TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN; NANCY POWELL TO BE AMBASSADOR TO NEPAL; JOSEPH ERELI TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN; RICHARD NORLAND TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN; STEPHEN SECHE TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE REPUBLIC OF YEMENN;
LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.


HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE SUBJECT: PENDING NOMINATIONS CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA) WITNESSES: ANNE WOODS PATTERSON TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN; NANCY POWELL TO BE AMBASSADOR TO NEPAL; JOSEPH ERELI TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN; RICHARD NORLAND TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN; STEPHEN SECHE TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE REPUBLIC OF YEMENN LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C. TIME: 2:34 P.M. EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2007

SEN. KERRY: Thank you. We'll come to order. I apologize to everybody for being a little late. We're in the middle of negotiations on the energy bill, on that wonderful subject of CAFE standards, which we've been fighting about for as long as I've been here. So we're trying to see if we can get something cooking, and I apologize for that.

Thank you all for being here. This hearing is to examine the nominations for ambassador of a number of career foreign service officers. The Honorable Anne Woods Patterson to be ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Honorable Nancy Powell to be ambassador to Nepal; Mr. Joseph Adam Ereli to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain; Mr. Richard Boyce Norland to be ambassador to the Republic of Uzbekistan; and Mr. Stephen A. Seche to be ambassador to the Republic of Yemen. And I might add, having sat on these hearings for a long time now, it is really both refreshing and enormously reassuring to see so much experience at a table at one time, and so many people whose long careers have really, I think, prepared them all so effectively for these challenging missions. And there isn't one mission here that isn't challenging, one way or the other.

And we thank your families also. We -- I certainly personally understand the commitment and sacrifices involved in your service, and we're very, very grateful to all of you for that, particularly those of you going to a place -- well, almost everywhere nowadays has become more complicated and stressful that it ever used to be, and it takes a real toll in a lot of different ways. So we welcome all of you here, and we welcome those of you who have family members who've come to share this hearing with you.

The -- let me just speak individually, if I can, for a moment -- and Ms. Patterson, thank you; I'm very glad we had a chance to talk personally. I met with the foreign minister just the day before yesterday, and we had a good meeting and discussed some of the subjects that we talked about. The position you've been nominated for, obviously, ambassador to Pakistan, is a -- is a central one in terms of our current efforts in struggling with terrorism. Pakistan, needless to say, has been a key ally in the region and in the fight against terrorism. It's one of the most significant, complex relationships we have anywhere in the world. And recent developments there are obviously of great concern to many of us on the committee.

Pakistan clearly has many contributions to make in the fight against terrorism, and they have also made sacrifices in this effort. But we're also concerned about the current situation in the border region with Afghanistan, particularly in North Waziristan, where the deal President Musharraf made with local tribal leaders has not worked out, as many predicted or, certainly, as well for us or for Pakistan. Al Qaeda has reportedly established a base of operations there, and we know the direct threat that those bases can pose to us and to our allies. Most judgments are that Osama bin Laden and top al Qaeda leaders are still likely hiding out somewhere in that region, and the Taliban has been using that area as a base from which to launch attacks against coalition forces and the government of Afghanistan. So we need to continue pushing Pakistan to address this problem and show greater accountability for the dollars that we're putting in there.

Recent political developments are also troublesome. President Musharraf's refusal so far -- though I suspect this will resolve itself -- but the question of his living up to his promise to relinquish his role as the chief of the military, his unwillingness yet -- though I think this may also resolve itself -- to allow former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return to the country for the upcoming elections, and the arrest of hundreds of political activists from opposition parties, have raised fundamental questions about both the relationship and the future of democracy.

The president's dismissal of the chief justice of the supreme court resulted in widespread protests and has raised concerns about the rule of law. And the temporary crackdown on the media could have a chilling effect on free press in the future, so we need to reinforce our commitment for both democracy, human rights, respect for the rule of law, and find a way somehow -- and this is your task -- to balance all of that with the complicated mutuality that is needed in other endeavors. I know that Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Assistant Secretary Boucher have been in Pakistan recently, raising these concerns. I'm going to be interested in hearing your views on them today.

Bahrain has long been an ally of the United States; we've had a U.S. Naval command there for nearly 60 years. The country now faces many of the challenges that we see unfolding across the region. It has a majority Shi'ite population with Sunni leadership, and we know that Iran has attempted to influence -- to extend the influence that it's always had there. In fact, if you go back historically to its independence, that independence came about as a result of their efforts to separate themselves from Iran.

They've made some significant progress in implementing democratic reforms and respecting freedom of religion, but more remains to be done. Given that their oil reserves will be exhausted in the next 15 years they, needless to say, need to diversify their economy. And there are many, many reforms and quite a remarkable level of development taking place there, as we all know. But it's a key, as we try to bring stability to a chaotic region.

Yemen also presents, similarly, significant challenges for American foreign policy. While it's the only republic in the region, it's also one of the poorest countries in the area, lacking its own oil resources, particularly, and other resources. And it has a very high population growth. In fact, some have suggested that Yemen is at real risk of becoming a failed state in the next decades. Even now, significant portions of Yemen are outside the control of government and potentially provide a haven for terrorists. And we all remember that the USS Cole was attacked in the port of Aden. It is in the interests of both the United States and Yemen that we work together to find sustainable solutions to the challenges that we face.

After nearly a decade of civil war, many years of autocratic rule, a place that most people have always thought of as rather peaceful, Nepal finds itself at a critical point in its history. The United States and the international community need to help Nepal to restore and solidify their democracy, and key to this is moving forward with the process of integrating the Maoist opposition into the political process. Nepal faces a tough road ahead, and we obviously need to give them the support they need to succeed. And our ambassador's relationship and leverage in that process will be critical.

In Uzbekistan, the most powerful of the Central Asian former Soviet republics, we are faced with deteriorating relations with an increasingly brutal and repressive dictator in Islam Karimov. For a brief period after 9/11, we had a more cooperative relationship with Mr. Karimov, but subsequent human rights violations have led us to sever our military ties. We need to emphasize the need for genuine, significant improvement in Uzbekistan's record on human rights, religious rights, press freedoms, NGO rights, and democratic reforms.

So it's clear that each of you, as ambassadors, are going to be facing some very immediate, complicated, and important challenges. And I know the members of this committee will be interested in how you're going to approach them, but also in the progress as we go along over the next year-and-a-half or more.

So we're slightly under the gun here, but I don't think this is going to be a prolonged hearing, the reason being we have a meeting on Iraq at about 4:00, a little bit after 4:00. So I -- I suspect that it will not push us up against the wall, but I just wanted to sound that note of alarm.

So this is the picture. It's an interesting group of places. This is actually enormously challenging, when you put it all together, and it's not -- it's not separate, either.

It's all connected and interconnected, which makes it all the much more fascinating in terms of our larger interests and goals. So thank you for being here. Why don't we get into your testimony? I'd ask -- (off mike) -- no -- okay. If I could ask you each to sort of summarize and each of your testimonies will be placed in the record in full, and then we can sort of have a dialogue which I think would be helpful. So Ambassador Patterson, if you'd lead off and we'll just run down the line. Thank you.

MS. PATTERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm honored to be here today as President Bush's nominee for ambassador to Pakistan. I would like to thank the president and Secretary Rice for the confidence they have shown by nominating me to serve in this position. If confirmed, I look forward to working with this committee and Congress in furthering our goals for Pakistan, and allow me to summarize my written statement.

U.S. relations with Pakistan were transformed after the September 11th attacks when Pakistan made a commitment to stand with us against terrorism and extremism. I endorsed the 9/11 commission's recommendation to comprehensively support the Pakistan government in its struggle against extremists, and am ready to assist Pakistan and its plan to enhance internal security, propel democratic reform, and improve relations with its neighbors. The United States must maintain and enhance Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror, and if confirmed, it will be my most urgent task.

Additionally, I am fully committed to encouraging a democratic transition by supporting free and fair elections. The Pakistani people deserve the same right we in the United States enjoy -- the right to choose their leaders democratically. But we also know that democracy means more than just holding elections. It means building respect for the rule of law and reinforcing institutions such as a free press that are essential for democracy to flourish. Social and economic development programs play an instrumental part in nurturing democracy, and we should step up our efforts to assist the government of Pakistan in bettering the lives of its citizens, particularly in ungoverned parts of the country so that terrorism and radicalism will not find fertile ground.

These goals are not contradictory but mutually reinforcing. We therefore have to move forward together with the Pakistanis on all fronts simultaneously. Pakistan's contribution to the war on terror has been significant. Since 2001, the Pakistani government has arrested hundreds of terrorist suspects, turning over to the U.S. such senior al Qaeda figures as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Abu Zulela (ph). Eighty-five thousand Pakistani forces are stationed on the Afghan border, and more than 450 members of Pakistan's security forces have sacrificed their lives in support of anti-terror efforts. We are committed to supporting Pakistan's new strategy in the federally administered tribal areas with development assistance, appropriate aide to the military and police, and new measures to promote investment.

If confirmed, I will work closely with the Department of Defense, the U.S. Congress, and our Pakistani and nongovernmental partners on these and other key issues such as furthering legal protection for women and ethnic and religious minorities, and combating child labor and human trafficking. Similarly, I intend to actively pursue our public diplomacy efforts inside Pakistan to ensure that we reach out to Pakistani citizens.

Mr. Chairman, Pakistan's good relations with neighboring states are also crucial to its progress toward a stable, peaceful, and prosperous democracy. If confirmed, I will continue to work with the Pakistani government and my colleagues in Embassy Kabul to support efforts to build a stable Afghanistan. The joint statement issued by President Musharraf and President Karzai in Ankara this spring demonstrates growing cooperation between the two countries, but very serious tensions remain. With U.S. assistance, Pakistan is working to secure its border with Afghanistan to prevent the smuggling of arms, terrorists, and illegal drugs, which are fueling the Taliban insurgency. The U.S. and NATO must continue to foster expanded Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral dialogue. On the eastern border, we remain ready to support and assist Pakistan and India's renewed commitment to the Indo-Pakistani reconciliation. We recognize the progress made by the Pakistan government in disabling the A.Q. Khan proliferation network and the steps taken to ensure that such a network cannot be reconstituted. However, we must continue to be vigilant, and if confirmed, I will remain engaged with Pakistan on this vital issue. Mr. Chairman, if confirmed, I look forward to working with the Congress as we face the challenge of building a strong strategic partnership with Pakistan that reflects and protects these interests. Thank you.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Ambassador. Ambassador Powell, there's probably a little deja vu for you in all that, huh?

MS. POWELL: A little -- (inaudible). Mr. Chairman, I'm deeply honored to have --

SEN. KERRY: Remember which country you're here for. (Laughter.)

MS. POWELL: As the president's nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Nepal, I thank both President Bush and Secretary Rice for their confidence. If confirmed, I will have the privilege of returning to a region that has been the focus of much of my career, and to an embassy where I spent my second tour in the Foreign Service. However, much has changed since that time. Nepal is at a critical juncture in its history. Its government and people are simultaneously working to end a devastating decade-long Maoist insurgency and to establish sustained multiparty democracy. They are also struggling to emerge from poverty and to address the issues of discrimination and inequality that have long plagued Nepal.

Peace and democracy in Nepal would directly serve U.S. interests in stability and democracy in South Asia. The Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists who together comprise the interim government have agreed to a political roadmap that, if fully implemented, has the potential to deliver peace and democracy to Nepal. There has been much progress to date but success is far from assured. Although the Maoists joined the government on April 1st, they continue to violate commitments they have made in the course of the peace process. Unrest in the lowlands along the Indian border has further complicated efforts to restore law and order and the authority of the government throughout the country. The security vacuum and the political stalemate precluded free and fair constituent assembly elections from being held this month as originally planned. They are now expected in November or early December. In order to assure these -- (inaudible) -- are free and fair when they do take place, the government must urgently restore law and order throughout the country, complete the legislative and logistical groundwork for a well-administered election, and reach out to disaffected groups to ensure their adequate representation and peaceful participation in the political process. If confirmed, I will continue our active support of Nepali efforts to these ends.

Although democracy and stability are among our strongest interests in Nepal, they are far from the only ones. Nepal's magnificent art and architecture as well as its scenery continue to make it a favorite destination of American travelers, and the provision of services to American citizens is a responsibility that comes ahead of all others. Also, achieving durable solutions for the 108,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal continues to be a U.S. priority. If confirmed, I look forward to working with the government of Nepal to implement current plans for a voluntary resettlement program that would accommodate at least 60,000 of these refugees. I will also encourage the government of Nepal to ensure that the rights of all Tibetan refugees, resident in or transiting Nepal, are respected.

There remains room for improvement in Nepal's efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking, and to ensure its security forces uphold the highest human rights standards. If confirmed, I look forward to working with the government on these issues as well. Foreign assistance is and will continue to be the most useful tool at our disposal to influence developments in Nepal along the full spectrum of our national interests there. From technical support intended to strengthen Nepal's nascent democratic institutions to health programs that improve the daily lives of many Nepalese, as well as humanitarian assistance for refugees and conflict victims and training for Nepal's military that is focused on improving its human rights record, and working under civilian authority, our aid provides a critical programmatic complement to our diplomacy. I take seriously the responsibility to ensure that American taxpayers receive high returns on their investment in Nepal.

If confirmed, I look forward to consulting closely with you, Mr. Chairman, all members of the committee and your staff throughout my tenure in Nepal. I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the committee today. Thank you.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Mr. Joseph Adam Ereli.

MR: ERELI: Thank you, sir.

It's an honor to be here, Mr. Chairman. I thank you and the members of the committee for this opportunity, and if confirmed I look forward to working closely with you.

Mr. Chairman, for over 50 years, as you said in your statement, the Kingdom of Bahrain and its leaders have been strong allies and close friends of the United States in a very dangerous neighborhood. They have stood with us in times of war and in times of peace. Their vision for the future of Bahrain and the region is one that we largely share -- representative democracy, free trade and security cooperation. My priorities, if confirmed as ambassador, would be to move that bilateral relationship forward in all three areas. Bahrain is a major non-NATO ally. It hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Headquarters. It's sent air, ground and naval assets to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its naval vessels are serving beside ours in ongoing maritime operations in the Arabian Gulf. As an ally with a shared security vision for the region, we have an interest in helping Bahrain develop its defense capabilities and ensuring interoperability with our forces. An increasingly aggressive, assertive Iran makes this cooperation all the more important.

If confirmed, sir, I will work closely with my Department of Defense colleagues to enhance Bahraini defense capabilities and their cooperation with our forces in confronting regional threats. If confirmed, I will also devote considerable attention to counterterrorism cooperation. The United States and Bahrain have a free trade agreement which entered into force one year ago. It has stimulated economic growth and is a positive model for other countries in the region. If confirmed, I will focus much of my effort on fully exploiting the free trade agreement's potential for U.S. investment in Bahrain and two-way trade that benefits both our countries. Another important goal, sir, for the embassy and the United States in the coming years will be to strengthen support for democracy and democratic institutions in Bahrain. Bahrain has had two successful parliamentary elections since 2002. Political tendencies of all stripes have a voice in the affairs of their countries -- in the affairs of their country. If confirmed, I will work to strengthen political pluralism, civil society and the rule of law.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, should I be confirmed, I will have no higher priority than the safety and security of the dedicated men and women under my charge, both American and foreign national. They are bravely serving our country in difficult circumstances and I will do everything in my power to see that they have the resources and protection required to accomplish their mission on behalf of the American people.

Thank you again, sir, for this opportunity and I'd be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Mr. Norland.

MR. NORLAND: Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you here today. I am honored that the president has nominated me, and I'm thankful to Secretary Rice for recommending me for the position of ambassador to Uzbekistan. Thank you also for the opportunity to introduce my wife, Mary Hartnett (ph), who has made it possible for me to serve for two years on an unaccompanied tour in Afghanistan and supported me throughout that; my son Daniel, who has just graduated from Boston University Law School; our daughter Kate is overseas and can't be here. Senator, thank you also for coming to Kabul, where you will be remembered not only for taking risks and working hard, but also for being the only U.S. senator to have a snowball fight with the embassy staff. (Laughter.)

Sir, at the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is a country that presents great --

SEN. KERRY: Do you remember who won? (Laughter.)

MR. NORLAND: You were outnumbered. (Laughter.)

At the center -- at the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is a country that presents great challenges and great opportunities for the United States. The Historical (sic) Centre, the famed Silk Road trade, the seat of the Emperor Tamerlane's empire, a traditional center of Islamic thought and the core of former Soviet central Asia -- Uzbekistan has developed a very strong identity which is reflected in its relationships with neighbors and with the United States. Mr. Chairman, as I'm sure the committee is aware, the close bilateral relationship we once enjoyed with Uzbekistan on security issues -- particularly on Afghanistan -- has been reduced significantly during the past few years. Concurrently, our concern about the state of democratic development and human rights in Uzbekistan, already great, has steadily increased with every report of actions taken against civil society including press outlets, human rights activists and non- governmental organizations.

I strongly believe that despite the challenges of recent years, the United States can and should seek cooperation with Uzbekistan in areas integral to our common national security interests, particularly the fight against terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the narcotics trade. At the same time, Mr. Chairman, the policy which has consistently guided our engagement in Uzbekistan and which will bring true security to both Uzbekistan and the United States is multifaceted and balanced. Along with pursuing security cooperation, we will seek to promote greater respect for human rights and global law, real political reform, and the expansion of economic opportunity for Uzbek citizens. Mr. Chairman, if confirmed, I look forward to drawing upon my experiences in the former Soviet Union and most recently as deputy chief of mission in neighboring Afghanistan to seek the reinvigoration of meaningful cooperation of the government and people of Uzbekistan as was envisaged when we signed the 2002 Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework.

If confirmed by the Senate, I will focus on reversing the deteriorating human rights situation in Uzbekistan, including the decline in religious and press freedom. The acknowledged use of torture by the security services, for example, is not only a grave violation of human rights but also undermines the government and the country's security. We must work with Uzbek authorities to put an end to this awful practice. Although not yet announced, Uzbekistan is likely to hold presidential election before the end of the year that will determine the next phase of the country's history. If confirmed, I intend to work closely with the government of Uzbekistan and international bodies such as the OSCE to underscore the Uzbek people's right to a free and fair election.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, it is crucial that we continue efforts already underway to strengthen economic ties between Uzbekistan, its immediate neighbors, South Asia and the United States. Uzbekistan can only be as strong and prosperous as the economic opportunities it provides its people, and increasing these will only be achieved if the government adopts the difficult changes necessary to attract foreign investment, lower its trade barriers and participate fully in the world economic community. Mr. Chairman, Uzbekistan and the United States do not enjoy the close partnership we once had, but Uzbekistan's strategic location, importance and potential require that we remain engaged and do our best to return the relationship to where it should be. Working with you and members of this body, along with our dedicated team of American and Uzbek professionals on the ground at Embassy Tashkent, I believe we can make progress in securing our interests and encouraging Uzbekistan to realize its full potential.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for this opportunity and I'd be pleased to respond to any questions.

SEN. KERRY: Well, thank you very much.

Mr. Seche, I'm proud to welcome you from -- via the University of Massachusetts and the Berkshire Eagle.

MR. SECHE: Thank you, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Good to have you here.

MR. SECHE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the opportunity to appear this afternoon. As each of my colleagues has noted, Mr. Chairman, I too am honored to appear before you today as President Bush's nominee to be the next United States ambassador to the Republic of Yemen. And I'm grateful for the trust and confidence President Bush and Secretary Rice have placed in me. If confirmed by the Senate, I can assure you that protecting embassy staff and the lives of all Americans in Yemen -- as well as American facilities and other interests -- will be my top priority.

On May 2nd, following their meeting at the White House, President Bush and Yemeni President Saleh each spoke to the strength of the bilateral relationship. At the heart of that relationship is a shared desire to strengthen democracy, counter extremism and provide economic opportunity and a stable future for the Yemeni people. Yemen and the United States have achieved important successes together in our common effort to eradicate terrorism. Successes to date include joint action against al Qaeda cells and successful prosecution of the perpetrators of the October 2000 terrorist attack on the U.S.S. Cole. This cooperation continues today, and strengthening this partnership will be one of my principal priorities if I am confirmed by the Senate.

We must be mindful at the same time, as you noted yourself, Senator, that Yemen is one of the world's poorest countries, suffering from high levels of population growth, unemployment, infant mortality and chronic illiteracy. Over 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and nearly 50 percent is under the age of 15. Oil production, which currently comprises two-thirds of government revenue, is expected to decline dramatically during the next 10 years.

Our partnership, therefore, also must include assistance to help Yemen improve the lives of its citizens through comprehensive education, health care, agricultural development and good governance. Our support for Yemen as it addresses these critical needs, will in turn, contribute to the advancement of U.S. interests in the country, and more broadly in the region.

Over the past 18 months, the government of Yemen has undertaken significant democratic reforms. With major support from the United States, Yemen in September 2006 conducted presidential and local council elections that were (judged ?) open and genuinely competitive by international observers.

Other significant reforms include passage of a much-needed anticorruption law, judicial and civil service reforms, and the drafting of a new government procurement law. International donors, led by the Gulf States, responded to these reforms by pledging $4.7 billion towards Yemen's development in November of 2006.

In February of this year, those achievements led to Yemen's reinstatement in the Millennium Challenge Corporation's threshold program. U.S. efforts in support of economic development will focus on combating a corruption endemic to nearly every level of government in Yemen through technical assistance to both government and NGOs that will encourage transparency and increase the confidence of international investors and donors.

Mr. Chairman, over the course of a Foreign Service career that is now approaching three decades and has included assignments in eight different countries, I have tried to forge relationships that advance American interests by encouraging political stability, economic prosperity, and confidence that the United States can be relied upon as a partner and a friend. Nowhere is this issue of confidence more important today than in the Middle East. I believe that in Yemen -- thanks to the persistence and professionalism of colleagues here in Washington and at our embassy in Sana'a -- we have made significant strides in recent years towards a relationship that has the potential to serve as a model for the region and the world.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I'd be remiss if I failed to publicly thank my wife, Susan, my daughters Kate (sp), Lucy (sp) and Ariel (sp), for their love and forbearance in the face of the constant disruptions they have endured in their own lives as I have pursued my career. And I'm pleased that, with the exception of Ariel (sp), the women in my life are all here with me this afternoon.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage members of Congress and your staff to visit Yemen for a firsthand look at the partnership we are building and to ensure that our efforts on the ground reflect the will of this body and the American people. Thank you very much.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Mr. Seche, and thank you for your last comments.

I neglected to say, does any other ambassador-designate have family here you want to introduce, or you –

Yes, Ambassador Patterson. Who's that?

MS. PATTERSON: My husband, David.

SEN. KERRY: Welcome. Glad to have you here.

MS. PATTERSON: (Off mike.)

SEN. KERRY: Terrific.

MR. : Sir, I have my wife Marina (sp) and stepdaughter Masa (ph), who are former residents of -- (inaudible) --

SEN. KERRY: Terrific judgment. (Laughter.) Good for you.

MR. : (Off mike.)

SEN. KERRY: Beg your pardon?

MR. : (Off mike.)

SEN. KERRY: Oh, terrific. Great. And we share an alma mater, I believe.

MR. : Absolutely.

SEN. KERRY: Yeah, terrific.

MS. POWELL: Mr. Chairman, I don't have my immediate family with me today, but I do have members of my Foreign Service family, and I appreciate their support.

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's wonderful. Will they raise their hands? Where are they all? (Laughter.)

Well, thank you, all of you, and thank you all for your service.

You know, I couldn't help but, when you listed those eight countries -- and I was looking through all your curriculas -- it's just astonishing the span of experience that's sitting here, the numbers of places you all have served -- you know, from the Caribbean, to Latin America, to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Africa. I mean, it's really quite staggering. It's a great deal of experience and I hope it's going to be really well put to use.

I know that some people in the Foreign Service can sometimes get a little bit frustrated at the bureaucracy and at, sometimes, the unwillingness of Washington to listen. And I'm going to -- you know, I believe these hearings ought to be more than just sort of pro forma kind of -- we're going to ask some of the questions we need to about your countries. But I want to draw on a little bit of that experience, if I can, and ask you just to be candid. And we'll all - you know, if you say anything too "out there," we'll make sure the secretary doesn't hear about it – (laughter) -- and you know, we'll still follow through and get this done procedurally. But I really do want to draw on you because you've been -- you know the street, you know what's happening out there.

And sometimes I think that the experience that's on the ground in some of these countries just gets wasted. And when I go out and visit, as some of my colleagues on the committee do, and we sit in the embassies and you listen, it's a great education and you learn so much more than here. And I think a lot of that experience, sometimes it doesn't make it all the way to where it ought to and get listened to enough.

So, having said that, let me -- let me proceed to ask a few specific questions. And then I want to turn to my colleague and share this, and then I'll come back and perhaps ask some of these others.

But just to let you reflect on it a little bit, I really want to talk - I want to get you beyond your countries. I want you to share - and it bears on your countries, but I want you to think about -- I want you to share with the committee, for the record, you know, we've got - we're really tangled up in Iraq and we're tangled up in the Middle East, and Hamas is stronger, and Hezbollah is stronger, and Iran is flexing its muscles, and you know, we're sort of on the short end of more than we've ever been before or want to be, and our leverage and credibility are at risk and stake.

And you know, I meet a lot of students nowadays who are traveling abroad and they tell me they tell people they're Canadian, not American. I see some heads nodding out there. It just -- I mean, it burns you up and it hurts, but it's a reality that people face. People tell me they'd flash their American passport, but they get it back and their pocket as fast as they can because they don't want to be identified and so forth. And for businesspeople, it's got a cost nowadays.

I want you to share with this committee -- because you've spent a lot of time as junior officers. You've got friends in these countries; you hear what people are thinking and saying. I want you to share with the committee, ultimately we'll come back to it, some of the things you think we ought to be doing to restore that confidence, and to rebuild our credibility, and to address some of these burning issues that are feeding insurgencies and feeding terrorism and allowing extreme, radical religious zealots to somehow isolate us in a world where we should be isolating them. And I think it's a very, very significant question for all of us to think about. And if we don't draw on your experience, shame on us; we're missing something important here.

So that said, let me just turn to a few of these countries and get your views a little bit on that. Why don't I start with you, Mr. Seche, since we just ended with you.

Share with us -- first of all, obviously people are concerned about al Qaeda's operational structure in Yemen, and the State Department's annual report suggests that it's been weakened and dispersed. But real concerns remain about the organization's attempts to reconstitute operational cells there, as the State Department says. Can you share with us what the portfolio is that you've been given or as you understand it, and what you think you can do to enhance our situation on the ground there?

MR. SECHE: I'd be happy to try. Thanks very much, Senator.

I think that the counterterrorism portfolio, as you rightly point out, is among the most important I will have before me if confirmed by the Senate and if I get to serve as ambassador to Yemen. There is no greater issue, and no greater opportunity for cooperation between our two governments, than this (presents ?) itself. And certainly thus far we have seen President Saleh commit himself, I think quite resolutely, to efforts to eradicate terrorism through the arrest of al Qaeda suspects, to stemming the flow of fighters to Iraq from Yemen, and by arresting the perpetrators of the Cole bombing. So there is some success being done there.

There is also, at the same time -- and again, as you've pointed out and as I tried to address in my statement, some very worrisome political, economic and social indicators in the country that continue to create conditions that one might easily argue encourage young men to turn to extremism as a way to better their lives and gain goals that they feel otherwise are unattainable.

SEN. KERRY: You say you could easily argue it. Do you -- is it your judgment that it is or isn't a factor?

MR. SECHE: In my judgment, it is a factor.

SEN. KERRY: Okay.

MR. SECHE: I certainly think -- in my experience I have seen these kind of --

SEN. KERRY: A significant factor?

MR. SECHE: I'm sorry?

SEN. KERRY: A significant one?

MR. SECHE: It depends to some extent on the individual, I think, but I don't think there's any way to argue against the fact --

SEN. KERRY: What do you think the other factors are?

MR. SECHE: I think possibly there may be an argument that can be made that there is a cultural element in certain people's lives, there's a religious element in certain people's lives. There are certainly economic aspects of extremism that I think we need to address as well. So I think it's a package, and I think that all of these elements together may create a certain kind of a corrosive mix. And we find this very much in some of the more poor countries -- in the poor countries in the region, and that is the most worrisome aspect in Yemen, as I say, and one reason why we need to address the internal conditions and make sure that Yemenis can find a road to prosperity and democracy that will give them the confidence that their needs will be met by their government.

SEN. KERRY: What can you -- can you share anything with the committee -- do you have any view at this point from a distance or have you been informed about the rumors that President Saleh is grooming his son Ahmed (sp) for his succession?

MR. SECHE: I've certainly heard the rumors, and I think that it's important for us as a government, and it will certainly -- if I get confirmed and go to Yemen, it will be one of my first tasks to try to continue the efforts being made on the ground to ensure that a succession process is in place that will be democratic, it will be transparent, it will be constitutionally viable, and it will leave the Yemeni people with the full confidence that their will has been expressed at the polls.

SEN. KERRY: What do you think has been the impact of the increased American aid since the attacks on September 11th?

MR. SECHE: I think it's had a very positive impact. I think we have focused very smartly on the five governorates where the conditions are least propitious economically and politically and perhaps most volatile and where the conditions are such that we might see the kind of extremism take root that we're trying to avoid. And I think for that reason alone, this sharp focus, the effort we've made in health care, education, economic reforms, transparency, anti- corruption -- all of these are elements in Yemeni society that need to be addressed, and I think identifying ourselves with these remedial steps is a very positive element in the relationship.

SEN. KERRY: And what do you think is the top priority in terms of building the relationship and diminishing the impact of sort of radical games?

MR. SECHE: I think we need to be seen as being absolutely true to our values, and I think this is rule of law, all the constitutional guarantees we take for granted -- we need to make sure that around the world people see us and say, "Yes, America can be trusted, can be relied upon to bring these values to bear in our own societies."

SEN. KERRY: And what do you think is the biggest craw that sticks in their throat with respect to that? I mean, what's the -- what perception is working against us in your judgment in Yemen?

MR. SECHE: Well, I suspect -- probably conversely, the fact that there is an erosion of this confidence. There is a sense that we have not really been proven to be true to our values in some sense. They look around and they see --

SEN. KERRY: Tell me in your judgment. What do you pick up and hear? What is the biggest evidence of that? Is it Guantanamo? Is it Abu Ghraib? Is it Iraq itself? Is it some particular thing? Is it a conglomerate of them?

MR. SECHE: I think it's a basketful of issues. I think Guantanamo is one that strikes very closely and very personally to many Yemenis, and I think this is something that we need to resolve as -- with as much dispatch as we can. I also think that Iraq of course has a very negative influence on people's opinions and perceptions of us. And I think the continued protracted inability to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue is another issue with -- (inaudible).

SEN. KERRY: What -- share with us just very quickly and then I'll ask a few others -- the prospects for improving Yemen's economic situation and its level of poverty.

MR. SECHE: I think fundamentally what we need to do is address the issue of corruption. I think it's endemic in the government at all levels. I think it's a real impediment to investor and donor confidence. I think that people are using their own ability to get at wealth for their own personal gain. It tends to be a dispiriting element in a society, and we need to address that, as well. And I think we've done very well with the aid we've been able to put in the country in very critical areas to ensure that we get -- sort of lift the boat up a little bit so that everybody can come home and float a little bit more safely to harbor.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

Mr. Norland, did you enjoy Norway?

MR. NORLAND: (Laughs.) I had the great fortune, sir, to be in Tromso, Norway, before anybody ever used the term "American presence post". And it was a one-person post 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and it was a marvelous experience.

SEN. KERRY: Must have been. I hope somebody was there with you. (Laughter.)

MR. NORLAND: My wife and kids were there.

SEN. KERRY: That's terrific.

MR. NORLAND: Yes.

SEN. KERRY: Uzbekistan presents one of those tricky balances -- as do a couple of the other places you're all going to represent -- between advocating for human rights and democracy and the balance of getting day-to-day cooperation from people to fight terrorism. Give us your assessment of sort of where that balance is and to what degree you judge Uzbekistan is in fact cooperating with our anti- proliferation and terrorism efforts.

MR. NORLAND: Yes, Senator. I think sadly the balance has tilted towards a situation where given a panoply of interests -- security, economic cooperation, counter-narcotics, human rights -- the human rights part of that equation needs the most attention. We're in a situation where it cannot be a business-as-usual -- but I think that one of the ways to approach this is to go back to the idea that we share common interests to try to persuade the Uzbek government that in fact our interests in stability in the region, in peaceful succession, in resolving security and other issues -- these are interests we share in common and it is very much in the Uzbek government's interest to restore its proper standing in the international community with respect to human rights and rule of law.

SEN. KERRY: What do you think is the impact that Congress's prohibition on some assistance to Uzbekistan?

MR. NORLAND: I think that the role that Congress has played in that respect, the role that some of the -- I won't say -- well, suspension or not doing business as usual in terms of some of the executive branch activities with Uzbekistan have gotten their attention. Again, it's regrettable --

SEN. KERRY: When you say "get their attention" -- I mean, there's still a pretty widespread understanding of torture and abuse and things like that. I mean, how do you -- how do you leverage the sort of level of cooperation we need at the same -- if you start to get pushy on one, you could lose on the other, can't you?

MR. NORLAND: You can, but I think there have been a couple of examples recently where the government has taken actions that show that perhaps our approach and condemnation by the international community has an impact. There were a couple of journalists who were first arrested, sentenced to long jail terms. There was an outcry by us, but the E.U., and those terms have been suspended and the journalists have been released. Now, granted, this was after kind of a show trial-type of confession on their part. It's not a solution to the problem, but I think what it sends -- the signal it sends is that they can't be completely oblivious to what we think.

SEN. KERRY: Well, I have some more questions I want to get to, but let me let my colleague have an opportunity here. And I thank him for coming around.

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D-WI): Mr. Chairman, thank you. Thank you for holding the hearing. I just have a couple of quick questions. But I congratulate all of you, and you're all going to interesting posts. And Mr. Chairman, I enjoyed listening to your questioning, particularly with regard to Yemen. It was an interesting conversation.

Ms. Patterson, with regard to Pakistan, we had a chance to meet and I just want to follow up a little bit. Given your extensive history working on drug-related issues, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on how to best combat the major drug trafficking problems in Pakistan and among the border countries, especially since opium trafficking may be a major source of revenue, as we know, for many terrorist and insurgent groups operating out of Pakistan or along its borders.

MS. PATTERSON: Thank you, Senator Feingold. Actually, it's a growing problem, and the spillover effect from Afghanistan is not only funding the Taliban -- and our intelligence and information on that gets better by the day -- but it's also increasing addiction very dramatically in Pakistan.

And I visited a treatment center run by a -- a very impressive woman. Up in Peshawar, they have huge numbers of addicts that -- that are not only native Pakistani citizens, but come out of the -- they come out of the refugee camps. There are still 2 million Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan.

This is a problem that's going to have to have enormous cross- border cooperation. It's going to have to have enormous political will on both sides of the border. The Pakistani army has 85,000 troops on the border. We have -- the bureau I work with now has funded border stations all along the border. And that said, it has had little impact on the flow through Pakistan and into Iran, which also has an enormous addiction problem right now. We hope that with this new strategy and the (fatah ?), the one the Pakistani government is -- has put forward and that we will support -- that too will have an effect on drug trafficking. But -- but I'm certainly not optimistic in the short run, Senator.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Can you tell me a little bit about the nature of this opium issue in Pakistan, as opposed to Afghanistan?

MS. PATTERSON: Yes, sir. Pakistan actually has quite a good record against narcotics in terms of treatment and eradication and -- and law enforcement. What's happening now is they're simply being overwhelmed with -- with the flow from Afghanistan, and they're not able to interdict it.

SEN. FEINGOLD: This is -- this is opium that's produced in Afghanistan?

MS. PATTERSON: Opium -- opium -- Afghanistan. They have --

SEN. FEINGOLD: And the flow is to Pakistan?

MS. PATTERSON: Flow is into Pakistan, and a lot of it flows into Iran, and then the old Turkish connection route. But Pakistan's done a pretty good job in recent years in controlling its own poppy problem. It just can't now control the flow in from Afghanistan. But the really scary thing, from our standpoint, is it's -- is the funding of the Taliban through --

SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, the poppy production is much greater in Afghanistan than in Pakistan, at this point.

MS. PATTERSON: Vastly greater. I think -- I think Pakistan has a thousand hectares of poppy production, which is considered negligible, by U.N. standards.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Do you believe the drug eradication efforts in Colombia have been effective, and do you intend to implement similar practices in Pakistan?

MS. PATTERSON: Yes, sir, I do believe they've been effective, and I entirely realize that many in this Congress have a different view. But I firmly believe that if we had not taken this amount of coca in this case, cocaine products, off the market, we would have had a much more difficult problem in this country. When Plan Colombia began, we had -- we had so much narcotics coming out of Colombia that it threatened to swamp our treatment programs with cheap dope. So I believe that the eradication has had an impact. I believe interdiction in Colombia has had an impact, and it's not reaching the streets of the U.S. And no, we have no intention to -- to put in place such a program in Pakistan, nor would it be necessary.

SEN. FEINGOLD: It's not --

MS. PATTERSON: They have a very modest program.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Okay. Do you think Pakistan is on the verge of a state of emergency being declared? And if Musharraf declares a state of emergency, how would we respond? What message is the administration sending with its unwavering support of President Musharraf?

MS. PATTERSON: Well, let me address the state of emergency first, Senator. After we spoke, I -- I went back and found more detail about this, and both the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, and President Musharraf have said that no state of emergency is intended or planned. And I also found the most astonishing statement by Shaukat Aziz, that this would be the first time in the history of Pakistan that parliament would ever complete a full term.

The administration, rest assured, is sending the right message on this. I don't -- I would be fairly confident to predict that no state of emergency is going to be imposed. Our policy is to push for free and fair and transparent elections before -- February of 2008. And if you confirm -- if I'm confirmed, I will pursue that vigorously.

SEN. FEINGOLD: What about the unwavering support of Musharraf? What kind of message is that sending?

MS. PATTERSON: President Musharraf has been our friend. He is our friend. He has been, in many respects, a modernizer in Pakistan, certainly on issues of the economy and on issues like women's rights. Actually, a rather remarkable modernizer. I would not say we have -- we have unswavering (sic) support for Musharraf. I think we have pushed for elections, we've pushed for institutional development in Pakistan, and it's up to the electorate to decide the next -- the next steps. And that's our policy, and that's the policy that I will pursue if I'm confirmed.

SEN. FEINGOLD: And what about his giving up his leadership of the army?

MS. PATTERSON: That's up to the people of Pakistan, Senator. And they have -- if the elections are free and fair and transparent, they will have several opportunities to address this. Certainly the (electorals ?) can take this into account when they vote on him, and if they don't like the decision, his decision, they can vote for parties that have a different view and they --

SEN. FEINGOLD: But we don't weigh in on the inappropriateness of him being both president and head of the army?

MS. PATTERSON: Let me explain our policy very clearly, Senator. Our policy is to push for a civilian elected government in Pakistan, but the timing of that is up to the Pakistanis.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much --

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Senator Feingold, for an important line of questioning, and we appreciate your participation enormously.

I'm going to come back to you in a moment, Ambassador Patterson. Let me just ask Ambassador Powell, if I can, in your judgment, does the interim government have enough legitimacy and lift to be able to pull off the assembly elections?

MS. POWELL: They appear to be working very hard at making the necessary steps. They've taken a very important one this week in getting new legislation in that will -- that determined the kind of elections they will have, a mix of both first-past-the-post and proportionate. They have one more piece of legislation they need to pass. They are certainly going to have to do much more on the law- and-order front in order to ensure that people aren't intimidated, that the campaigns can go forward in a reasonable manner.

SEN. KERRY: Assuming they did the law-and-order front, is it your judgment that the outcome -- and there's, I assume, going to be some kind of international observation for the legitimacy; let's say they've sort of -- it's signed off on. Do you think that internally, within the country, there'll be an acceptance of an outcome?

MS. POWELL: I think that's one of the major questions, particularly with the Maoist Party. They have committed themselves to the parliamentary system, to the --

SEN. KERRY: How committed do you judge they really are?

MS. POWELL: I think we will have a chance to see that. They have not shown 100 percent commitment, particularly with the founding of the Young Communist League. Intimidation, extortion, some of the kidnapping has been continuing. This has been recognized both in the -- by the U.S. government representatives, by my predecessor, and also by the prime minister, by other political leaders.

SEN. KERRY: So it's your judgment, or the State Department's conclusion, that the likelihood is they may engage in coercive activities during the election?

MS. POWELL: That certainly is one of the things that their pattern has shown so far. I believe that the international community, and certainly the Nepali government is going to have to watch this and take steps to stop it.

SEN. KERRY: What impact do you believe the street demonstrations would have on the election process?

MS. POWELL: They've had a number of impacts already, certainly a very devastating impact on the economy. They lost a number of work days. They do intimidate those who are opposed to -- to the Maoist philosophy, and this has served to form the debate in certain ways that have not been truly democratic.

SEN. KERRY: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledgement.) Do you know, can you comment on what the status of their weapons are at this point?

MS. POWELL: They turned in approximately 3,000 weapons to the U.N. They are under lock and key in the camps. They are monitored by the U.N. It is not clear that that is the entire cache, but that has been --

SEN. KERRY: Is there any judgment at all about sort of relative quantity?

MS. POWELL: I don't believe so. It was also matched by a similar quantity from the army being restored. My experience in South Asia is that even if they had locked up all of those in their possession, it isn't that difficult to get new ones in the region.

SEN. KERRY: Therefore, what judgment, if any, is made about what they might resort to in the event they don't like the outcome of the election?

MS. POWELL: I think there are two things that we will need to watch for. One of them is making sure that the elections are as free and fair as they can be so that there is no reason for groups, whether it's the Maoists or others, to reject the results. The international community is trying to work in a coordinated manner with the government of Nepal to provide expertise, to provide assistance in the logistics and in the legal framework for those elections.

There are a number of international bodies, including American ones, that have already committed to providing international observers, training Nepali observers to be in the more remote parts of the country so that it can be documented on the conduct of the election, on the conduct of the various parties. I think all of those will go a long way of strengthening the security forces so that they can deal with occasions of violence on election day, ensure that there is not an outbreak of violence after the election.

SEN. KERRY: What's the anticipated date on the Constituent Assembly election?

MS. POWELL: They are talking about a Nepali month in the fall between mid-November and mid-December.

SEN. KERRY: Mm-hmm. (Affirmative.) Is there a role that the United States and the international community can play that we aren't playing? Is there anything we should be doing, in your judgment?

MS. POWELL: I think we need to continue to work with the United Nations to make sure that the cantonments in which the Maoist fighters have been put are adequately staffed and taken care of. We need to look at what we can do to make sure that the people who are in those camps receive some kind of training that will allow them to rejoin society after having been part of a group that has not encouraged support for democratic ideals. I think those are key areas; also those are very, very important and practical aspects of the elections. They are going to need money, they are going to need logistics. Nepal is not an easy country to move around in, and to get the ballots out, to get the security forces out to the various regions will take a lot of funding and a lot of work on the logistics.

SEN. KERRY: Is there a current plan for that?

MS. POWELL: I believe the U.N. is working hard on it. We certainly have advisers working with the election commission from IFES and others that the USAID has contracted to support the Nepali efforts.

If confirmed, one of my first tasks will be to look at our own plans and to see, both for the elections and then what happens the day after the elections. Are we prepared to be able to support the constituent assembly that is elected, and how can they best do that?

SEN. KERRY: Is there a compromise of some kind that you believe can be attained at the ballot box that would sufficiently vest the Maoists so they don't resort to an arms struggle? I mean, is there some frame of that that you have that you would articulate? Or do you think this has to be simply worked through and see what the outcome is?

MS. POWELL: I think this one is going to take, first of all, a free and fair election, where people have confidence that they have voted for those that they want. There is a certain amount of support for the Maoists, and that also needs to be respected in an election. They have committed to this, although there are divisions, we believe, within the Maoists. We need to encourage those that are committed to this, the democratic process, and to make sure that all forums, including the courts system -- that there are ways to encourage the ethnic groups and the others who feel disadvantaged, that they have a role. Right now most of the violence is from those groups rather than from the Maoist group.

SEN. KERRY: What role do you believe India has in this?

MS. POWELL: They have a very important role to play. There are a large number of Nepali citizens who live and work in India. The border is relatively open.

This has provided a free flow of ideas and goods. It's also permitted smuggling and other illegal activities to take place. They have enormous amounts of influence with the various political groups, including the Maoists, over the years, and so they will continue to play a very important role.

SEN. KERRY: Do you believe that China has any ability to help?

MS. POWELL: I do. They have, again, a long border with Nepal. They have rejected the idea that these are people that are somehow tied to their former leader and have spoken out in favor of the current peace process. And I would hope that they would be engaged in promoting that.

SEN. KERRY: I assume that this will be task number one for you the minute you set foot there, that you're going to focus on what we can do to be supportive without being viewed as interfering or managing it.

MS. POWELL: It is. At the same time, I think our assistance and our support has been focused on both the short term with a very, very heavy focus on the peace process and the elections, but also on our assistance for ensuring that the government can deliver services. We have concentrated over the years, particularly on education and health, with the current focus on health, and that very much needs to continue. The average Nepali has a -- is struck by poverty with a lack of opportunity for education, and we need to assist the government to address those needs.

SEN. KERRY: Is there any other challenge that the committee ought to be thinking about that'd be helpful to you?

MS. POWELL: The Nepalese, in particular, need to continue to look at trafficking. We have had a very, very positive response, I believe, on the offer to resettlement some of the Bhutanese refugees, who have been in camps for 17 years, as a humanitarian gesture. We're going to continue to have to look at how to do that. It is not easy to implement, but we will continue to work on those issues as well.

SEN. KERRY: Well, we wish you well in that.

What about the strife in Terai?

MS. POWELL: I think the security forces have not been deployed in a manner to assist the government in ensuring that there is law and order. There are a number of groups who have taken the position that the way to get the government's attention is to take to the street, to commit violent acts, and this needs to be addressed in a way that they can have their grievances heard. There is a roundtable planned with the new minister for reconstruction, and there will be -- I think this is something that we need to encourage, that they address these needs, these grievances more energetically and more quickly so that they don't feel the need to go to the streets.

SEN. KERRY: Well, I may come back and follow up on a couple of them. Let me just ask Joseph Adam Ereli a couple of things if I can.

How would you describe the relationship right now between Bahrain, the Shi'ite community in Bahrain and Iran?

MR. ERELI: I think there are similarities and differences -- obviously the similarities of the coreligionists. But there are Shi'a who look to Qom for guidance in Iran. There are Shi'a -- in Bahrain there are Shi'a who look for -- to Qom for guidance. There are Shi'a who look to Najaf for guidance.

So it would be a mistake to assume just because they're Shi'a, they share a sympathy and allegiance to Iran. I think you need to look -- one needs to look beyond this surface religious affiliation and dig a little deeper and to see where -- how people think and where their allegiances lie.

But I -- going beyond that, obviously Bahrain finds itself on the same religious fault line that Iraq does. It goes north to south, east to west. And Bahrain is squarely at the epicenter of it.

Having said that, Bahrain has a long history of peaceful coexistence between religious communities. And -- and --

SEN. KERRY: Are there any signs now of the kind of sectarian divisions growing?

MR. ERELI: Excuse me, sir?

SEN. KERRY: Are there any signs now of the spillover of the Iraqi divide, that sectarian violence spilling into it?

MR. ERELI: Not really.

SEN. KERRY: Are there any Sunni --

MR. ERELI: Not really. There are obviously -- obviously people are thinking about it and people are watching for it. But I have not, in my consultation and in my discussions, heard anybody suggest that the kind of sectarian strife we're seeing in Iraq is spilling over into Bahrain.

I would make --

SEN. KERRY: What level of middle class, you know, refugeeism is taking place in Bahrain out of Iraq?

MR. ERELI: Not the way, for instance, in Jordan.

I would make an important point -- make one point, sir, is that I think the Bahrain leadership has been pretty far-sighted in this, in the sense that they have proactively incorporated or included a prominent Shi'a into the cabinet. There are five Shi'a cabinet ministers in Bahrain, thereby giving that community, as I said in my opening statement, a voice in the affairs of their country. And that's an important step and I think one that recognizes and puts its finger ahead of time on the issue that you raise in your question.

SEN. KERRY: What do you see as your biggest challenge?

MR. ERELI: There are several, sir. Number one, I think when you talked about what can we do to restore confidence in a region in the world that is looking to America for, I think, consistency and leadership, is -- and this is very true in the Gulf, and especially true in Bahrain -- we have to stand by our friends. It's not -- in these dangerous neighborhoods, being friends to the United States entails risks. And Bahrain has been one of the most steadfast and forward-leaning friends of the United States. It's not without risk, both domestically as well as with its -- with very big and brutal neighbors. So we need to stand by -- we need to stand by our friends.

We need to, as I said before, promote interoperability, promote cooperation with Bahrain in our regional efforts, both confronting Iran as well as promoting regional security cooperation with the other members of the GCC. And that will serve as a strong signal to other states that there's a payoff to being a friend of the United States, that it's in their interest in it's in our mutual interest. And I think that serves American national interests over the long run.

Democratic development, human rights, sir, is a ball you can never take your eye off of. And I think what we see in Bahrain as well as other countries in the region is that democratic development is not constant, it is not linear. There are setbacks. And even though a country can be committed to reform and political pluralism and respect for the rights of its citizens, there are always challenges to that commitment. There's always backsliding.

And as ambassador, if confirmed, I would keep my eye on that ball. I would be engaged with the government constantly to help them move forward in the way that they have outlined. And I think, sir, the case of NDI is a good example of that.

SEN. KERRY: Just a few more questions if we can. Ambassador Patterson, what do you make of the dust-up with the chief justice in Pakistan?

MS. PATTERSON: That is before the -- the Supreme Court of Pakistan is reviewing that case right now.

I think everyone would say that the acting chief justice is an honorable individual, known for his integrity. The Supreme Court itself is well-respected. They're going to review his reinstatement on a variety of substantive and procedural grounds, and the government has said that they will stand by that decision.

On the issue itself, obviously it was most unfortunate. Certainly the violence that was associated with it is to be deplored. But it is before the courts of Pakistan now, and they have a long and distinguished history.

SEN. KERRY: And you're -- by way of saying, you have confidence that they'll resolve this appropriately.

MS. PATTERSON: Yes, we're confident, and we're confident that the government will stand behind the decision. Like courts everywhere else, it's hard to predict when they might make a decision, but it's --

SEN. KERRY: Do you base that at all on any reporting from Undersecretary Negroponte in his visit, or deputy secretary?

MS. PATTERSON: Certainly from -- I think that the government's made public statements to that effect, and we've had quite a string of high-level visitors there and the undersecretary's reporting.

SEN. KERRY: (Off mike.)

MS. PATTERSON: Yes, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Now what is your assessment of the al Qaeda presence in the tribal areas?

MS. PATTERSON: My assessment, sir, is that it's very alarming. And when you've asked my colleagues here about their highest priority, that has to be my highest priority, to do everything we possibly can to prevent an attack on either the United States or allied countries from that, but it is alarming. And I think reconstitution or resurgence might be too strong a word, but they certainly are operating from Pakistan. And they operate fairly freely in a cross- border way, too.

SEN. KERRY: Yeah, when I was in Kabul, I got a mouthful from President Karzai on his view of what's happening there. And then obviously when I met with Musharraf, you get the countermouthful. And, I gather, the meeting between the two of them was not a good meeting on any interpretive level. So we have a difficulty on this -- in this relationship. It's hard to get control of that border under those circumstances. Isn't it?

MS. PATTERSON: It's extremely difficult, sir.

SEN. KERRY: It sounds to me like a Taliban-al Qaeda dream.

MS. PATTERSON: It's extremely difficult, not only because of the terrain, which is terrible and terribly difficult to control, but also, yes, because of the relationships. But we're working on that, and we're working on enhanced cross-border cooperation. Our embassy's cooperate.

I think the Pakistanis and the Afghanis work better on the operational level than you might suspect. And as we've developed this new strategy, it will do things like put in place intelligence centers that can fuse the information that becomes available on the border. So we have some plans that I think are fairly convincing and impressive.

SEN. KERRY: I was going to ask you what steps you thought we could take in order to try to improve the situation. I trust those plans are in the making now, or --

MS. PATTERSON: Yes, sir, they're actually quite well-developed, and they build on --

SEN. KERRY: Are they public in any way, or --

MS. PATTERSON: Certainly we can provide a briefing for you and your staff. I wouldn't call them public, but they're certainly available.

SEN. KERRY: Well, it's something we obviously want to try to follow up on. I don't think we need to explore it in a public session right now.

But -- (short pause). Two questions, if you would, quickly. Kashmir, India -- of how you interpret the current state of that dialogue. I mean, there's been a lot of talk and a lot of discussion about, gee, things are great and they're good. But on the other hand, nothing's been resolved fundamentally, and there seems to be just this continued idea of talk. Now talk's better than what we had, I'm not dismissing it. But do you see any notion, any sense that they really could get a resolution on Kashmir?

MS. PATTERSON: I think, Senator -- Mr. Chairman, I think relations are better than they have been in years. This dialogue has continued. As you point out, at least it's not a hot situation right now. And when I was talking to members of the committee staff in preparation for this hearing, they suggested -- and I would tend to agree -- that we, the United States government, have been distracted -- not distracted -- have been very active elsewhere in the region and that we might offer to play a more active role in that. And I certainly took that onboard.

SEN. KERRY: And finally, how do you interpret the radical Islamic movement in Pakistan and the balance between -- the scope that President Musharraf has to kind of deal with that in the street, maintain the independence and sovereignty of his administration in the country and still be our close ally in the war on terror?

MS. PATTERSON: Mr. Chairman, the sort of radical extremists or even the very conservative religious parties -- and the two, of course, aren't necessarily the same -- they have not had a historically important role in Pakistan.

They've never had more than 10 or 11 percent of the vote.

I think what is alarming is the increase in Islamic extremism in the North-West Frontier Province and in the FATA.

And there seems to be some impression that these people live very collegially with the tribes out there. That doesn't -- that's not the case either. These tribal leaders have been killed by the hundreds. People have been intimidated and threatened. And as you know, there have been multiple assassination attempts against government -- not only the president but a wide range of ministers, including the minister of Interior.

So yes, it's a serious problem, but not one that I think is -- cannot be controlled. In other words, Pakistan is -- and President Musharraf talks very eloquently about this in his book -- Pakistan, largely speaking, is a moderate and tolerant Islamic country.

SEN. KERRY: Well, Islam, honestly speaking, is a moderate and tolerant religion, but it's been pretty effectively hijacked around a number of different distortions.

But -- well, let me ask you -- we've got about five minutes -- to sort of explore what I'd laid out in the beginning. And I would just like each of you to share with me your experience here. You're about to be ambassador of the United States in a relatively troubled arena. You're going to have unprecedented levels of security. Your embassy personnel are working in barricaded fortresses and will have, you know, huge levels of security.

What's your readout on sort of what we need to do as a country to improve your ability to live -- you know, to represent us in a different status, to be in a different place in these relationships? Anybody want to take that first? I'm going to ask each of you, so nobody's going to get off the hook. But share your experience. What do we need to do? What do you think would make the most difference in leverage? Is it simply solving Iraq? Is it bigger than Iraq? Is it something we're not doing well in terms of multilateralism, diplomacy overall? Is there a multiple message? I mean, give me the -- what's your gut tell you when you go home at night some day after getting a cable from the State Department and you, you know, pound the wall and say, "They don't understand"? What do you think we ought to do?

Mr. Norland.

MR. NORLAND: Well, maybe I'll speak as somebody whose father was in the Foreign Service and who grew up living partly overseas. I would say that, you know, there's both a policy function but also kind of an ironic function of modern life that's at play here. We're under the illusion that in the age of the Internet and of jet travel, that we understand the world better than we actually do. And there really is no substitute, as you're suggesting in your question, for actually being on the ground, living with people in a foreign country, getting to know them, establishing family relationships that last maybe longer than just that tour.

And I think one of the challenges we have, as you suggested, is to overcome the security and other barriers that exist and really penetrate these societies and establish long-term relationships, both as diplomats, also through graduate student exchange programs and other kinds of exchange programs.

From a policy perspective -- as a policy function, I think, as was said earlier, addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue and applying perhaps a little more focus to multilateral diplomacy would probably also help restore our standing in the world.

MR. SECHE: If I might follow up -- and if Dick hadn't said it so well, I would say exactly what he had just said. But I think there's something important here, and that there will always be policies that create neuralgia between us and other peoples around the world -- we live to avoid those kinds of controversies and disappointments; it may be Iraq, it may be something else tomorrow. We have to understand that and at that level where human interaction becomes the key to convincing people they can come back to a level of trust and confidence, and that's where I think we need to do this, and that is public diplomacy. That is relationships among people that will let us relate to them as individuals and convey to them what our values and our principles are, and I think there are a lot of common bonds that can be forged in that manner.

SEN. KERRY: Anybody else want to -- yes, Ambassador Powell.

MS. POWELL: I would add to that it needs to work both ways. We need to be welcoming also of our foreign friends and find ways to process their visits to the United States, particularly, I hope, for education. I think the universities and the schools in America have been a tremendous area for improving the understanding of America, for having people understand that, and I would hope that we can continue to do that while at the same time we protect our borders and make them secure.

I'm facing a situation in which the Peace Corps has had to terminate its program in Nepal. I truly believe the Peace Corps has had a tremendous influence around the world, and would encourage additional programs like that, where possible.

MR. ERELI: Sir, I come from a background in public affairs and public diplomacy and have spent a lot of time talking to people in the region and -- for a number of years. And one of the constant things you hear is -- you know, it's not that we don't like America as we don't like its policies. And, frankly, I've been hearing that refrain for 20 years. I think the -- what's incumbent upon us as representatives of the United States is to represent and advocate and promote the values that have made this country the greatest country in the world. And it is those values, sir, that the people of the region, in every region I have been in, largely share with us and largely seek to emulate, and it's when they see us as somehow betraying those values or falling short of those values that we come in for the greatest criticism.

So the task before us is to try to establish the mutual understanding and the relationship and the policy convergences that are based on values of freedom, of equality, of opportunity and of the rule of law, and at the same time square them with what's going on in the world.

And that's not always an easy thing to do, but that's why we get paid the big bucks.

The other point I would make, I would echo something that my current boss, Undersecretary Hughes, talks about quite often, which is the diplomacy of deeds, and that is that the United States does an awful lot of good for the world that goes unrecognized: our support for -- the president's support for AIDS funding, the actions we're taking on malaria, what we devote to educational exchanges and educational opportunity. These are acts that improve people's lives in a material way. Nothing helped us more, sir, than when we flew aid to the people of Pakistan after that earthquake. You saw a notable jump in the -- in attitudes towards the United States.

I would just underscore the importance of the diplomacy of deeds and the importance of doing concrete things to improve people's lives that, again, provide material support and material expression to our values as a nation.

SEN. KERRY: Ambassador Patterson, you get a "bye" because I've just been given a message I've got an emergency meeting here on CAFE that I've got to get to right away.

But I need to ask each and every one of you, is there any reason -- is there anything that would act as a potential conflict of interest in the performance of your responsibilities as an ambassador that we should be aware of?

Ambassador Patterson?

MS. PATTERSON: No, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. KERRY: Ambassador Powell?

MS. POWELL: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Ambassador -- Mr. Ereli?

MR. ERELI: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Norland?

MR. NORLAND: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Seche.

MR. SECHE: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: And is there any holding asset or interest that any of you have that would potentially pose a conflict of interest in the performance of your responsibilities?

Ambassador Patterson?

MS. PATTERSON: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: Ambassador Powell?

MS. POWELL: No, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Ereli?

MR. ERELI: No, sir.

MR. : (Off mike) -- sir.

SEN. KERRY: Mr. Norland?

MR. NORLAND: None whatsoever.

SEN. KERRY: Great.

Well again, let me repeat what I said at the outset. A tremendous amount of experience. You are -- all of you (are) superbly qualified to go out there and undertake these responsibilities.

We're going to try -- I'm going to leave the record open until Monday only because I want to move, if we can, Wednesday or Thursday to a business meeting, which should allow us to have a vote on the floor of the Senate either Thursday night or Friday to get you all out there which we need to do, particularly before we break on -- for the 4th of July recess.

So you can all take the "if I am confirmed" out of your repertoire and get ready to be confirmed and go to work. We appreciate again -- look forward to seeing some of you anyway. I'm not sure I'll get everywhere that you are, but I look forward to getting out there some time.

Good luck. God bless. Thank you. We stand adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)

June 21, 2007

Source: LexisNexis News

Ms. Powell, US Ambassador to Nepal at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing

Powell-Kerry Exchange on Nepal
NANCY J. POWELL, the US ambassador designate to Kathmandu, tackles questions about Nepal at a Capitol Hill hearing.


Ms. Powell, the nominee for US ambassador to Nepal, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, offers her views on political transition in Nepal, the Terai unrest, the Bhutanees refugees problem, and American assistance.

The following are the edited excerpts of a transcript of the June 20, 2007 hearing at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the pending nomination of Nancy Powell to be ambassador to Nepal. The Hearing was chaired by the Democratic Senator John F. Kerry and took place in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

The joint hearing also included nominees Anne Woods Patterson (for Pakistan), Joseph Adam Ereli (Bahrain), Richard Boyce Norland (Uzbekistan), and Stephen A. Seche (Yemen).

SEN. KERRY: Thank you. We'll come to order. I apologize to everybody for being a little late. We're in the middle of negotiations on the energy bill, on that wonderful subject of CAFE standards, which we've been fighting about for as long as I've been here. So we're trying to see if we can get something cooking, and I apologize for that.

Thank you all for being here. This hearing is to examine the nominations for ambassador of a number of career foreign service officers. The Honorable Anne Woods Patterson to be ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Honorable Nancy Powell to be ambassador to Nepal; Mr. Joseph Adam Ereli to be ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain; Mr. Richard Boyce Norland to be ambassador to the Republic of Uzbekistan; and Mr. Stephen A. Seche to be ambassador to the Republic of Yemen. And I might add, having sat on these hearings for a long time now, it is really both refreshing and enormously reassuring to see so much experience at a table at one time, and so many people whose long careers have really, I think, prepared them all so effectively for these challenging missions. And there isn't one mission here that isn't challenging, one way or the other.

And we thank your families also. We -- I certainly personally understand the commitment and sacrifices involved in your service, and we're very, very grateful to all of you for that, particularly those of you going to a place -- well, almost everywhere nowadays has become more complicated and stressful that it ever used to be, and it takes a real toll in a lot of different ways. So we welcome all of you here, and we welcome those of you who have family members who've come to share this hearing with you.

.....

After nearly a decade of civil war, many years of autocratic rule, a place that most people have always thought of as rather peaceful, Nepal finds itself at a critical point in its history. The United States and the international community need to help Nepal to restore and solidify their democracy, and key to this is moving forward with the process of integrating the Maoist opposition into the political process. Nepal faces a tough road ahead, and we obviously need to give them the support they need to succeed. And our ambassador's relationship and leverage in that process will be critical.
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So it's clear that each of you, as ambassadors, are going to be facing some very immediate, complicated, and important challenges. And I know the members of this committee will be interested in how you're going to approach them, but also in the progress as we go along over the next year-and-a-half or more.

So we're slightly under the gun here, but I don't think this is going to be a prolonged hearing, the reason being we have a meeting on Iraq at about 4:00, a little bit after 4:00. So I -- I suspect that it will not push us up against the wall, but I just wanted to sound that note of alarm.

So this is the picture. It's an interesting group of places. This is actually enormously challenging, when you put it all together, and it's not -- it's not separate, either.

It's all connected and interconnected, which makes it all the much more fascinating in terms of our larger interests and goals. So thank you for being here. Why don't we get into your testimony? I'd ask -- (off mike) -- no -- okay. If I could ask you each to sort of summarize and each of your testimonies will be placed in the record in full, and then we can sort of have a dialogue which I think would be helpful.

...............


MS. POWELL: As the president's nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Nepal, I thank both President Bush and Secretary Rice for their confidence. If confirmed, I will have the privilege of returning to a region that has been the focus of much of my career, and to an embassy where I spent my second tour in the Foreign Service. However, much has changed since that time. Nepal is at a critical juncture in its history. Its government and people are simultaneously working to end a devastating decade-long Maoist insurgency and to establish sustained multiparty democracy. They are also struggling to emerge from poverty and to address the issues of discrimination and inequality that have long plagued Nepal.

Peace and democracy in Nepal would directly serve U.S. interests in stability and democracy in South Asia. The Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists who together comprise the interim government have agreed to a political roadmap that, if fully implemented, has the potential to deliver peace and democracy to Nepal. There has been much progress to date but success is far from assured. Although the Maoists joined the government on April 1st, they continue to violate commitments they have made in the course of the peace process. Unrest in the lowlands along the Indian border has further complicated efforts to restore law and order and the authority of the government throughout the country. The security vacuum and the political stalemate precluded free and fair constituent assembly elections from being held this month as originally planned. They are now expected in November or early December. In order to assure these -- (inaudible) -- are free and fair when they do take place, the government must urgently restore law and order throughout the country, complete the legislative and logistical groundwork for a well-administered election, and reach out to disaffected groups to ensure their adequate representation and peaceful participation in the political process. If confirmed, I will continue our active support of Nepali efforts to these ends.

Although democracy and stability are among our strongest interests in Nepal, they are far from the only ones. Nepal's magnificent art and architecture as well as its scenery continue to make it a favorite destination of American travelers, and the provision of services to American citizens is a responsibility that comes ahead of all others. Also, achieving durable solutions for the 108,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal continues to be a U.S. priority. If confirmed, I look forward to working with the government of Nepal to implement current plans for a voluntary resettlement program that would accommodate at least 60,000 of these refugees. I will also encourage the government of Nepal to ensure that the rights of all Tibetan refugees, resident in or transiting Nepal, are respected.

There remains room for improvement in Nepal's efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking, and to ensure its security forces uphold the highest human rights standards. If confirmed, I look forward to working with the government on these issues as well. Foreign assistance is and will continue to be the most useful tool at our disposal to influence developments in Nepal along the full spectrum of our national interests there. From technical support intended to strengthen Nepal's nascent democratic institutions to health programs that improve the daily lives of many Nepalese, as well as humanitarian assistance for refugees and conflict victims and training for Nepal's military that is focused on improving its human rights record, and working under civilian authority, our aid provides a critical programmatic complement to our diplomacy. I take seriously the responsibility to ensure that American taxpayers receive high returns on their investment in Nepal.

If confirmed, I look forward to consulting closely with you, Mr. Chairman, all members of the committee and your staff throughout my tenure in Nepal. I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the committee today. Thank you.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.


SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much… I neglected to say, does any other ambassador-designate have family here you want to introduce, or you –

MS. POWELL: Mr. Chairman, I don't have my immediate family with me today, but I do have members of my Foreign Service family, and I appreciate their support.

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's wonderful. Will they raise their hands? Where are they all? (Laughter.)
Well, thank you, all of you, and thank you all for your service.

You know, I couldn't help but, when you listed those eight countries -- and I was looking through all your curriculas -- it's just astonishing the span of experience that's sitting here, the numbers of places you all have served -- you know, from the Caribbean, to Latin America, to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Africa. I mean, it's really quite staggering. It's a great deal of experience and I hope it's going to be really well put to use.

I know that some people in the Foreign Service can sometimes get a little bit frustrated at the bureaucracy and at, sometimes, the unwillingness of Washington to listen. And I'm going to -- you know, I believe these hearings ought to be more than just sort of pro forma kind of -- we're going to ask some of the questions we need to about your countries. But I want to draw on a little bit of that experience, if I can, and ask you just to be candid. And we'll all - you know, if you say anything too "out there," we'll make sure the secretary doesn't hear about it – (laughter) -- and you know, we'll still follow through and get this done procedurally. But I really do want to draw on you because you've been -- you know the street, you know what's happening out there.

And sometimes I think that the experience that's on the ground in some of these countries just gets wasted. And when I go out and visit, as some of my colleagues on the committee do, and we sit in the embassies and you listen, it's a great education and you learn so much more than here. And I think a lot of that experience, sometimes it doesn't make it all the way to where it ought to and get listened to enough.

So, having said that, let me -- let me proceed to ask a few specific questions. And then I want to turn to my colleague and share this, and then I'll come back and perhaps ask some of these others.

But just to let you reflect on it a little bit, I really want to talk - I want to get you beyond your countries. I want you to share - and it bears on your countries, but I want you to think about -- I want you to share with the committee, for the record, you know, we've got - we're really tangled up in Iraq and we're tangled up in the Middle East, and Hamas is stronger, and Hezbollah is stronger, and Iran is flexing its muscles, and you know, we're sort of on the short end of more than we've ever been before or want to be, and our leverage and credibility are at risk and stake.

And you know, I meet a lot of students nowadays who are traveling abroad and they tell me they tell people they're Canadian, not American. I see some heads nodding out there. It just -- I mean, it burns you up and it hurts, but it's a reality that people face. People tell me they'd flash their American passport, but they get it back and their pocket as fast as they can because they don't want to be identified and so forth. And for businesspeople, it's got a cost nowadays.

I want you to share with this committee -- because you've spent a lot of time as junior officers. You've got friends in these countries; you hear what people are thinking and saying. I want you to share with the committee, ultimately we'll come back to it, some of the things you think we ought to be doing to restore that confidence, and to rebuild our credibility, and to address some of these burning issues that are feeding insurgencies and feeding terrorism and allowing extreme, radical religious zealots to somehow isolate us in a world where we should be isolating them. And I think it's a very, very significant question for all of us to think about. And if we don't draw on your experience, shame on us; we're missing something important here.

So that said, let me just turn to a few of these countries and get your views a little bit on that.

……

SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much… Let me just ask Ambassador Powell, if I can, in your judgment, does the interim government have enough legitimacy and lift to be able to pull off the assembly elections?
MS. POWELL: They appear to be working very hard at making the necessary steps. They've taken a very important one this week in getting new legislation in that will -- that determined the kind of elections they will have, a mix of both first-past-the-post and proportionate. They have one more piece of legislation they need to pass. They are certainly going to have to do much more on the law- and-order front in order to ensure that people aren't intimidated, that the campaigns can go forward in a reasonable manner.

SEN. KERRY: Assuming they did the law-and-order front, is it your judgment that the outcome -- and there's, I assume, going to be some kind of international observation for the legitimacy; let's say they've sort of -- it's signed off on. Do you think that internally, within the country, there'll be an acceptance of an outcome?
MS. POWELL: I think that's one of the major questions, particularly with the Maoist Party. They have committed themselves to the parliamentary system, to the --

SEN. KERRY: How committed do you judge they really are?

MS. POWELL: I think we will have a chance to see that. They have not shown 100 percent commitment, particularly with the founding of the Young Communist League. Intimidation, extortion, some of the kidnapping has been continuing. This has been recognized both in the -- by the U.S. government representatives, by my predecessor, and also by the prime minister, by other political leaders.

SEN. KERRY: So it's your judgment, or the State Department's conclusion, that the likelihood is they may engage in coercive activities during the election?

MS. POWELL: That certainly is one of the things that their pattern has shown so far. I believe that the international community, and certainly the Nepali government is going to have to watch this and take steps to stop it.

SEN. KERRY: What impact do you believe the street demonstrations would have on the election process?

MS. POWELL: They've had a number of impacts already, certainly a very devastating impact on the economy. They lost a number of work days. They do intimidate those who are opposed to -- to the Maoist philosophy, and this has served to form the debate in certain ways that have not been truly democratic.

SEN. KERRY: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledgement.) Do you know, can you comment on what the status of their weapons are at this point?

MS. POWELL: They turned in approximately 3,000 weapons to the U.N. They are under lock and key in the camps. They are monitored by the U.N. It is not clear that that is the entire cache, but that has been –

SEN. KERRY: Is there any judgment at all about sort of relative quantity?

MS. POWELL: I don't believe so. It was also matched by a similar quantity from the army being restored. My experience in South Asia is that even if they had locked up all of those in their possession, it isn't that difficult to get new ones in the region.

SEN. KERRY: Therefore, what judgment, if any, is made about what they might resort to in the event they don't like the outcome of the election?

MS. POWELL: I think there are two things that we will need to watch for. One of them is making sure that the elections are as free and fair as they can be so that there is no reason for groups, whether it's the Maoists or others, to reject the results. The international community is trying to work in a coordinated manner with the government of Nepal to provide expertise, to provide assistance in the logistics and in the legal framework for those elections.

There are a number of international bodies, including American ones, that have already committed to providing international observers, training Nepali observers to be in the more remote parts of the country so that it can be documented on the conduct of the election, on the conduct of the various parties. I think all of those will go a long way of strengthening the security forces so that they can deal with occasions of violence on election day, ensure that there is not an outbreak of violence after the election.

SEN. KERRY: What's the anticipated date on the Constituent Assembly election?

MS. POWELL: They are talking about a Nepali month in the fall between mid-November and mid-December.

SEN. KERRY: Mm-hmm. (Affirmative.) Is there a role that the United States and the international community can play that we aren't playing? Is there anything we should be doing, in your judgment?

MS. POWELL: I think we need to continue to work with the United Nations to make sure that the cantonments in which the Maoist fighters have been put are adequately staffed and taken care of. We need to look at what we can do to make sure that the people who are in those camps receive some kind of training that will allow them to rejoin society after having been part of a group that has not encouraged support for democratic ideals. I think those are key areas; also those are very, very important and practical aspects of the elections. They are going to need money, they are going to need logistics. Nepal is not an easy country to move around in, and to get the ballots out, to get the security forces out to the various regions will take a lot of funding and a lot of work on the logistics.

SEN. KERRY: Is there a current plan for that?

MS. POWELL: I believe the U.N. is working hard on it. We certainly have advisers working with the election commission from IFES and others that the USAID has contracted to support the Nepali efforts.

If confirmed, one of my first tasks will be to look at our own plans and to see, both for the elections and then what happens the day after the elections. Are we prepared to be able to support the constituent assembly that is elected, and how can they best do that?

SEN. KERRY: Is there a compromise of some kind that you believe can be attained at the ballot box that would sufficiently vest the Maoists so they don't resort to an arms struggle? I mean, is there some frame of that that you have that you would articulate? Or do you think this has to be simply worked through and see what the outcome is?

MS. POWELL: I think this one is going to take, first of all, a free and fair election, where people have confidence that they have voted for those that they want. There is a certain amount of support for the Maoists, and that also needs to be respected in an election. They have committed to this, although there are divisions, we believe, within the Maoists. We need to encourage those that are committed to this, the democratic process, and to make sure that all forums, including the courts system -- that there are ways to encourage the ethnic groups and the others who feel disadvantaged, that they have a role. Right now most of the violence is from those groups rather than from the Maoist group.

SEN. KERRY: What role do you believe India has in this?

MS. POWELL: They have a very important role to play. There are a large number of Nepali citizens who live and work in India. The border is relatively open.

This has provided a free flow of ideas and goods. It's also permitted smuggling and other illegal activities to take place. They have enormous amounts of influence with the various political groups, including the Maoists, over the years, and so they will continue to play a very important role.

SEN. KERRY: Do you believe that China has any ability to help?

MS. POWELL: I do. They have, again, a long border with Nepal. They have rejected the idea that these are people that are somehow tied to their former leader and have spoken out in favor of the current peace process. And I would hope that they would be engaged in promoting that.

SEN. KERRY: I assume that this will be task number one for you the minute you set foot there, that you're going to focus on what we can do to be supportive without being viewed as interfering or managing it.

MS. POWELL: It is. At the same time, I think our assistance and our support has been focused on both the short term with a very, very heavy focus on the peace process and the elections, but also on our assistance for ensuring that the government can deliver services. We have concentrated over the years, particularly on education and health, with the current focus on health, and that very much needs to continue. The average Nepali has a -- is struck by poverty with a lack of opportunity for education, and we need to assist the government to address those needs.

SEN. KERRY: Is there any other challenge that the committee ought to be thinking about that'd be helpful to you?

MS. POWELL: The Nepalese, in particular, need to continue to look at trafficking. We have had a very, very positive response, I believe, on the offer to resettlement some of the Bhutanese refugees, who have been in camps for 17 years, as a humanitarian gesture. We're going to continue to have to look at how to do that. It is not easy to implement, but we will continue to work on those issues as well.

SEN. KERRY: Well, we wish you well in that.

What about the strife in Terai?

MS. POWELL: I think the security forces have not been deployed in a manner to assist the government in ensuring that there is law and order. There are a number of groups who have taken the position that the way to get the government's attention is to take to the street, to commit violent acts, and this needs to be addressed in a way that they can have their grievances heard. There is a roundtable planned with the new minister for reconstruction, and there will be -- I think this is something that we need to encourage, that they address these needs, these grievances more energetically and more quickly so that they don't feel the need to go to the streets.

….

SEN. KERRY: Anybody else want to -- yes, Ambassador Powell.
MS. POWELL: I would add to that it needs to work both ways. We need to be welcoming also of our foreign friends and find ways to process their visits to the United States, particularly, I hope, for education. I think the universities and the schools in America have been a tremendous area for improving the understanding of America, for having people understand that, and I would hope that we can continue to do that while at the same time we protect our borders and make them secure.

I'm facing a situation in which the Peace Corps has had to terminate its program in Nepal. I truly believe the Peace Corps has had a tremendous influence around the world, and would encourage additional programs like that, where possible.

SEN. KERRY: ….., you get a "bye" because I've just been given a message I've got an emergency meeting here on CAFE that I've got to get to right away.

But I need to ask each and every one of you, is there any reason -- is there anything that would act as a potential conflict of interest in the performance of your responsibilities as an ambassador that we should be aware of?
….

SEN. KERRY: Ambassador Powell?
MS. POWELL: No, sir.

SEN. KERRY: And is there any holding asset or interest that any of you have that would potentially pose a conflict of interest in the performance of your responsibilities?

MS. POWELL: No, Mr. Chairman.


SEN. KERRY: Great.
Well again, let me repeat what I said at the outset. A tremendous amount of experience. You are -- all of you (are) superbly qualified to go out there and undertake these responsibilities.

We're going to try -- I'm going to leave the record open until Monday only because I want to move, if we can, Wednesday or Thursday to a business meeting, which should allow us to have a vote on the floor of the Senate either Thursday night or Friday to get you all out there which we need to do, particularly before we break on -- for the 4th of July recess.

So you can all take the "if I am confirmed" out of your repertoire and get ready to be confirmed and go to work. We appreciate again -- look forward to seeing some of you anyway. I'm not sure I'll get everywhere that you are, but I look forward to getting out there some time.

Good luck. God bless. Thank you.

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