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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2001 > March

Remarks at the National Newspaper Association's 40th Annual Government Affairs Conference

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Remarks to the National Newspaper Association
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Washington, DC
March 23, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for that warm welcome. It's a great pleasure to have the opportunity to address you again. I think it has been almost ten years since last I had this privilege, and I remember fondly that morning.

I am especially touched that General Reppert introduced me. I want to thank him for his 33 years of service where he covered himself with great distinction serving us in a number of capacities in international affairs, being an expert in Russian matters -- (laughter) -- serving as our attaché in Moscow -- (laughter) -- and also serving in a wonderful organization that I helped create, which very few Americans know about, but it has done a remarkable job. It is a little organization in the Pentagon known as OSIA. It is called the On-Site Inspection Agency, and he led it for a while. This little organization has for years gone around validating and making sure that all the arms control agreements we entered into were, in fact, lived up to by the other side -- those days of the Soviet Union and now Russia.

And it is just an example of the kind of unsung heroic organizations and people you have who serve us every day, in and out, in the Defense Department, in the State Department, and so many agencies of government who go unsung and do such wonderful work. The OSIA we created to monitor a treaty that many people don't remember any more, called the INF Treaty, Intermediate Nuclear Force Reductions, which we signed in late 1987 with the Soviet Union.

It was the first time ever the United States and the Soviet Union came together and declared a whole class of nuclear weapons gone -- off the face of the earth: SS-20s on the part of the Soviet Union; on the part of the United States, we got rid of our Pershing IIs and our ground launch cruise missiles.

And this year, after some 14 years of work by OSIA and people like John, that agreement is now executed and we will be removing some of our presence at those Soviet, now Russian, facilities. And it is a great agreement. And, John, I thank you and all the others that you served with over the years for that.

John is illustrative of the people who serve the nation, as I said. But what I have also discovered in recent months, now that I no longer wear a green suit, but a blue suit all the time, and I am faced with that most difficult of choices every morning to find a tie that is not black. (Laughter.) But now that I am in this new job as Secretary of State, I find that much of what I tried to do as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, much of the same kind of thing that I did when I was just a young lieutenant, applies to the State Department.

Taking the wonderful men and women who work in the State Department, whether they are Foreign Service officers, or whether they are Civil Service employees, or whether they are Foreign Service nationals, and doing everything I can to put them in the best position to serve the American people, to give them the resources they need, to let them know we appreciate what they do, to let them know they are part of a broader team, that they work alongside their colleagues in the Pentagon in uniform, that they are the representatives of the President, and as representatives of the President and representatives of the Secretary of State, they are your representatives.

One of my major missions as Secretary of State is going to be the fight for the resources they need to do a better job, to make sure they are working in secure embassies and they have the latest information technology, that they are being compensated properly. So as I have been saying to all of my congressional interlocutors and all of my dear, dear friends in the Office of Management and Budget, I plan to do everything I can to make sure that when we send our diplomats in harm's way, they go in harm's way with all the tools, the experience, the training and the recognition that they need and deserve to do their job well.

I hope as you do your work back home, you will from time to time say a good word about these men and women. I hope that you will recognize them because, as was noted in the introduction, I believe it is important for us to take the message of what we do in the State Department not just to foreign capitals, but to every hamlet, every town, every city in America, so that we can get the kind of support we need for a foreign policy that has us engaged, that has us pursuing realistic objectives, that shows that we are not afraid of any nation on the face of the earth. We want to be friends with every nation on the face of the earth, but we will represent our interests well, we will fight for our interests, we will defend our interests, we will reach out and touch every nation that wants to be a friend of ours, and show them how through democracy and the free enterprise system, with their adaptation of democracy and the free enterprise system to their culture and to their history, will help them join a world that is changing so rapidly and radically, a world that is no longer separated into blocks of the red and the blue sides of the map, but a world that is increasingly joined by the power of technology, by the power of information and media, the kinds of changes that are affecting the work that you do every day.

But no matter what you hear and see about the websites of this world and Internet information -- and I use all of it -- I wake up in the morning and go to the website to see what has been said about me, throw myself right into search. AOL knows we well now; just put in Powell and all kinds of nasty stuff comes out. (Laughter.)

But then I go outside to my front door, and I think I have said this to you before, I pick up six newspapers to bring them inside. I have got a manageable bunch of data there, and random access is much faster than on my website as I turn pages.

(Applause.)

So you will always have an important role to play no matter how this world changes, and I need to use you to take our message with respect to foreign policy across the world. You are the voice not only of the free press in America, but the voice of so much of the nation itself. Millions of Americans get from your newspapers the kind of in-depth exposure to foreign news and events that no newscast can provide.

America's hometown papers, whether large or small, chronicle the daily life of our nation, of our people. You tell the American story, what is happening in the State House, or City Hall, how the local team is doing, what's new in the classifieds, the obit pages, and of course whose name is on the police blotter that morning. (Laughter.)

And on that latter point, you know better than I do that your job is pointing out what's wrong in society, that part of your beat that describes what is bad. But so too part of your beat is pointing out what's good, reporting on what President Bush likes to call the "nobility of normal lives." And no one tells the story as well as you do, that simple day-to-day goodness of life here in America. Put it all together, and community newspapers do not just tell the story of American freedom; you are that story.

Someone has said that the greatest safeguard of First Amendment rights is their courageous and responsible use, and I believe that to the depth of my heart. And on this 40th meeting of owners, publishers and editors representing more than 1,000 newspapers, 150 million readers each week, let me salute you for your faithfulness to the American story and to the best traditions of the First Amendment.

As I do my work as Secretary of State, I will do exactly what that website quotation said: communicate to the American people directly, and then also the media, so you can examine, analyze, critique, take apart and put back together, criticize, attack, defend when you feel like, but above all, allow me to communicate to the American people. I will try to do it to the best of my ability on the record and in a way that when you hear from the Secretary of State it is not an anonymous official but somebody speaking for the foreign policy of the United States of America, for President Bush's foreign policy.

This right that we have of free speech and freedom of expression is brought home to me whenever I see what's happening in other parts of the world. In the Human Rights Report that we issued not too long ago, we took note of the pattern of what is happening in other parts of the world, took note of places like Cuba, Iraq, Libya and Turkmenistan, where there is no such thing as free press of any kind; took note of severe restrictions on freedom that existed in places like Sudan, Uzbekistan and China. In Iran, dozens of newspapers offices were closed in the past year, and a number of Iran's most prominent journalists and editors were harassed or arrested -- things that we don't think of here. In Russia, Kremlin efforts to gain control over a major independent television network posed a threat for the hard-won press freedoms that the Russian people are now enjoying.

And so you can expect your State Department to remain vigilant, to speak out and to take note when nations around the world do not measure up -- not to our standards of freedom and individual liberty, but to what we believe are universal standards of freedom and liberty that God has given to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth.

Our foreign policy will be values-based, values-based in a way that reflects the best of America's ideals, the best of America's value system -- not as a way of lecturing to others or telling others do it our way. As President Bush said, we want to do it with humility. But we believe that if we can be that shining city on the hill that shows people what you can accomplish if you move in this direction of freedom, then we are the moral example that we all want this nation to be, and we can have a powerful impact on the world.

This world is so complex, so changing. It has changed so much just in the seven years that I was out in private life and working with America's Promise - the Alliance for Youth. And in my old life as a soldier, things were relatively simple. I would just wake up every morning and look at the maps and make sure that great big Soviet Union was still there. (Laughter.) It's gone, broken up. And instead, when I just look at what I have done this week and how I have had to deal with different issues around the world in the course of the week, helping President Bush as he has dealt with those same issues, you get a pretty good idea how complex the world has become.

In these first two months of the Bush Administration, we have tried to start out on a pattern that will be clear for all. First, meetings with the great hemispheric leaders here in the Western part of the world, meetings with Prime Minister Chretien of Canada and President Fox of Mexico, to let everybody know that we are concerned about our own hemisphere.

And then the President began to reach out, meeting with European leaders, meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, to let them know that we believe in that great alliance that we have been a part of for the last 50 years. He has been reaching out now to others in South America, and we are starting to now reach out across Asia.

Just in the past few weeks, you've seen the President meet with the leaders of South Korea; you've seen the President meet this week alone with Japan, our great ally in the Pacific, and with Prime Minister Mori to make sure he understood the value we placed on our political and military relationship with Japan.

Beyond that, though, we have economic issues we had to discuss, and they discussed those issues in a realistic, practical, way, from the standpoint of two friends speaking to one another. And friends do not hide from the truth; friends speak clearly and candidly, point out where there is agreement, point out how we can move forward together, point out all the success we have enjoyed, but also talk candidly about difficulties and challenges that lay ahead. And we did that. The President did that.

And then we had the Vice Premier of China here as well, an excellent series of meetings over the last 48 hours with this distinguished gentleman who has been a leader in Sino-US relations for the last 20 years. Vice Premier Qian was open. He wanted to hear from the new Administration. He wanted to convey very strong feelings about what is happening in their economy. He wanted to make sure we understood their concern with respect to Taiwan, and we made sure he understood our concern.

We were not looking for a single word to describe this complex relationship, but to acknowledge that it is a complex relationship. We are trading partners. We will be regional competitors. But there is so much we can work on together, and must work on together, to try to bring China more into the international global community, to get accession to the World Trade Organization. And together, we can leave the past behind and move forward in more positive ways, more positive directions, while protecting our respective interests.

We also saw that the world can be very untidy. We saw difficulties in Macedonia, a continuing Balkan problem. We have made it clear to all the leaders in the region, and those who are not leaders but those who are trying to disrupt progress, those who act as radicals and try to disturb the practice of democracy in places like Macedonia -- we have made it clear that we will stand with the Macedonian Government. We have made it clear that we will support the territorial integrity of Macedonia. We have made it clear that we will work closely with that government that is a coalition government so that it is not shattered by this kind of gangster activity within Macedonia, spilling over from Kosovo.

American troops, alongside their NATO colleagues, will do everything they can to patrol the Kosovo side of that border, to stop the infiltrators from coming in and putting this nation at risk. We will engage diplomatically in every way possible to make sure that Macedonia can stand free and democratic, free to choose its own future without being disturbed or upset by these kinds of armed radical elements.

We also saw that in the Middle East there are great challenges ahead. Prime Minister Sharon, the new Prime Minister of Israel, was here, and we had very, very open talks, candid talks between two friends. And we made sure that Israel understood our complete commitment to their security, just as it has been our commitment for lo these past 50 years.

And at the same time, we talked about what we should try to do, working with our Arab friends in the region, working with Chairman Arafat to get the violence going in the other direction, to get the violence under control, both sides showing all the restraint possible to get things to a lower level so that economic activity can pick up again, and people can once again feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods. Let's get security cooperation and coordination going again between the two sides. And then, when we have a more stable situation, we can take action to begin discussions toward peace once more, something that both sides want, something that both peoples need in order for them to share this blessed land together.

We have continuing challenges in places like Iraq, and we are working on that to make sure that we orient all our efforts to keeping Iraq from getting weapons of mass destruction, not to hurt the Iraqi people, not to keep away from them what they need to live good lives, but to make it clear that the regime in Baghdad is a regime that continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, and the international community must not let them because they are threatening the children of the region, the people of the region.

And so, your Government, your State Department, your President, is working hard, doing everything we can to make sure the sanctions remain targeted against those efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

We are also reaching out to a great country called Russia, a nation that is finding its own way, that is trying to firm up its democracy, to improve its economy. We want to be good friends with Russia. We are not standing back from Russia, we are not looking for ways to offend Russia, but we have made it clear to our Russian counterparts that it is a mature relationship, and we have to speak candidly to one another.

I have already met with my Russian colleague, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. I met him in Cairo a few weeks ago. We had an excellent set of discussions covering all the issues of interest between our two countries. I have spoken to him several times on the phone. Dr. Condi Rice, our distinguished National Security Advisor, has had the same kind of relationship with her counterpart, Sergei Ivanov. President Bush has spoken to President Putin, and we are looking forward to having broad dialogue with the Russian Federation across all the areas of agreement and disagreement.

It will take a little time before we can begin. We are still in the process of reviewing our policies, establishing our strategies. We are still in the process of bringing a new team on board. I don't wish to comment on the confirmation process except to say that, as of this Friday, I am beginning my third month as Secretary of State, and I am still the only confirmed official in the Department of State in the new Administration. So it takes a little bit of time, but those officials are now getting confirmed and pretty soon our team will fill out and we will be in a better position to engage with Russia.

There was a problem this week, a problem that had to be dealt with, a problem that was not found out about because we were around one night saying, you know, let's find out some way to poke the Russians in the eye. Quite the contrary. We found a problem having to do with a spy by the name of Mr. Hanssen, an American spy. And as we examined that case and as we also examined a continuing problem that we have had with Russia concerning the level of their intelligence presence here, we decided that we had to respond. And we did respond. We responded in a way that was measured, realistic, practical. And as far as we are concerned, that ended the matter. It was not part of a great scheme; it was a stand-alone problem we had to deal with. We didn't shrink from it, we didn't walk away from it; we dealt with it in a realistic way.

And I had a long talk with Minister Ivanov last night about it, and he of course expressed his view on it in very, very strong terms, and they said more about it in the last few hours. And we will get through this because the world needs a good relationship between Russia and the United States. The world needs us to explore all of these issues together, and we will be exploring all of these issues of concern -- bilateral relations, trade relations, regional problems, weapons, missile defense -- all of those will be discussed.

And so it is a very complex world we are living in, and I have gotten it by the tail. I am being dragged around. And I'm telling you what, it is exciting and it is fun. And sometimes I get a little tired at the end of the week. This day, this Friday, I'm feeling pretty good. You guys have turned me on. I'm okay. (Laughter.)

But so far this week, in addition to the folks I have mentioned to you already, I met with the Foreign Minister of Armenia, the Foreign Minister of Georgia, the Foreign Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of Serbia, a senior minister from the United Kingdom. And as soon as I leave here, I'm going back to the office to receive the new Ambassador from Angola and the new Ambassador from India, and then late this afternoon I will be receiving and then taking over to see the President the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. Then I'm going home. (Laughter.)

But it's an exciting time. It's an exciting time to watch the world unfold. Most of the things I talk to you this morning about can be seen as problems. But also see them as opportunities. See this new world where there is no threat of the kind of nuclear exchange we worried about with the Soviet Union for 40 years. See this as a new world of opportunity, a new world of promise. And see the new Administration -- see President Bush -- as someone who is determined to seize these opportunities, but to do it from a position of strength, with an attitude of realism, and, as he has often said, with an attitude of humility. And I predict that it will be a foreign policy that Americans will rally behind, and you will all be proud of.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MODERATOR: The Secretary said he will take questions now. He has a few minutes for questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how long are we going to keep Cuba in isolation?

SECRETARY POWELL: As long as Castro continues to be the kind of person he has for the last 40-odd years. (Applause.)

We believe we are always on the lookout for programs where we can help the Cuban people, give them access to their families here in the United States, or in other ways that might help them better their lot in life. But we will not do it in ways that have to go through that regime, where the regime will take advantage of our openness. And we will not do it as long as that regime continues to flout the most basic elements of human rights: the denial of free speech, persecution of its people, seizing two Czech citizens recently and keeping them against their will for no particular purpose. As long as it is that kind of a regime, you will find that this Administration will stand strong against it, and the sanctions will remain in place.

QUESTION: Do you foresee a change in the policy or into the situation that seems to continue to evolve over and over again with Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one can hope. But let's take a look at the situation as it has evolved over and over and over again, as you describe it.

At the end of the Gulf War, we had taken that huge army and cut it down to about 30 percent of its original size, 30-35 percent of its original size. It is still that size, and perhaps even a little smaller. It is not the kind of threat to its neighbors that it used to be. It has been on short rations for ten years, and it shows it.

Secondly, at the end of the Gulf War, Iraq entered into agreements that had to do with our ability to monitor whether or not they were making weapons of mass destruction. For ten years, we have been watching that. For most of those ten years, we were able to do quite a bit of inspection. We haven't been able to do on-site inspection for several years now, and that is worrisome.

But the reality seems to be that, even though they are working on it, even though I don't trust them at all, and even though I'm sure they have got hidden programs that we can't find -- and I know that they are reaching out to other nations, trying to get the materials to develop these weapons -- I am reasonably confident that they do not yet have the kind of capability that would threaten the whole region the way they used to.

And so to a large extent, I think we can say our policies have worked for the last ten years. We have a weak regime that is strong only in the sense that they can keep this one rather horrible person in power, with all of his buddies and family members, and they dare not go anywhere; they are inside their security umbrella, or underneath their security umbrella. And my commitment right now, and the President's commitment, is to keep it that way and to see what else we might be able to do to cause a regime change.

So we are looking at this in several different ways: one, make sure the sanctions that are important stay in place against weapons of mass destruction; two, take a look at the no-fly zone that we have had in place for some years; and three, examine whether or not there are organizations and people out there who are committed to a free Iraq, who might want to participate in activities that would lead to a change of regime.

So he is an annoyance, a terrible annoyance. He is a potential threat to the region. But at the same time, the world is leaving him behind. He can show up once a year with a hat on the head and shoot rifle rounds in the air, but for the most part, he has been contained while other nations in the world have moved forward and leaving him behind.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about Korea. The shooting stopped over there in July of 1953. We still have troops there. What will be your policy towards North Korea? Any advances being made there? And will our troops ever come home from South Korea?

SECRETARY POWELL: Our troops have been there for all that time. As you know, we have about 37,000 troops there. And as a result of the presence of American troops standing alongside their South Korean colleagues, we have seen stability and an incredible amount of growth and the building of a democratic country in South Korea. So that has been a remarkably successful investment for us, and continues to be such an investment.

But it is not only what those troops do for South Korea. They also show our commitment to the Pacific and to East Asia. Alongside their buddies in Japan and on Okinawa, part of Japan, and our fleet in the region, we serve as a balancing wheel, so to speak, for that region. With the People's Republic of China coming out, with issues associated with Taiwan, with Japan having a defense strategy that has essentially said they will remain defensive, the United States plays an important role in the region. And even if North and South Korea were to suddenly unify itself, there is a high likelihood that our troops would remain in the region because they are such a stabilizing presence for the region.

Until that day happens when we see something fundamentally change between North and South Korea, we will be supporting the efforts of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, with his openness policy toward the North, but we will do it from the standpoint of being very cautious and careful. There is no other regime on the face of the earth like North Korea. All power, all authority, all decisions, all ideas, rest in the mind and person of a single man: Kim Jong Il. He has a huge army poised on the border between North and South Korea. He has been selling missiles. He has been developing weapons of mass destruction. He has also showed a certain level of openness over the last year or year and a half that we had never seen before from any North Korean leader.

So we are going to examine what he is doing. We are going to make sure he understands our skepticism and our caution. We are going to make sure that he understands that some of the things he has put on the table are not ready to be picked up because we have to work on how one would monitor and verify the kinds of things he is talking about.

So we will work with our friends in the region, the South Koreans and with the Japanese. And in due course, after we have completed our policy reviews and made sure we understand the nature of his actions and made sure that we have a solid policy position to engage the North Koreans, we will engage in due course, at a time of our choosing. And we are not in any particular hurry. But we will be engaged. We are not afraid. We just want to make sure that we understand the nature of the regime, what they are trying to do, and that we have our policies clearly defined within the Administration.

QUESTION: If you're going to be a value-based foreign policy, what about the torture and the abuse going on about women around the world, from India to northern parts of Africa? Does America actually plan on putting a stop to this or plan on doing any kind of action to go towards that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear the first part of your question.

QUESTION: The abuse and torture of the women around the world, especially in India and parts of Africa. Does America plan on holding to that policy of that human rights declaration? I mean, do they plan on doing any more action to those countries? I know with China there is the human rights portion to that. Do they plan on doing that to other countries also?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will be very aggressive in our human rights activities at every level, whether it is pursuing human rights resolutions in Geneva directed against Cuba and the People's Republic of China, whether it is speaking out against slavery, whether it is speaking out against trafficking in women in some parts of Africa, especially the Sudan. We will speak out and we will speak out firmly, and it is going to be a hallmark of our foreign policy -- trafficking in women, as well as trafficking in children.

We will also be very, very aggressive with respect to programs to do something about one of the greatest crises on the face of the earth right now, and that is the HIV-AIDS crisis, especially as it affects sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a higher percentage of women who are affected by it than men, as we see in other parts of the world, and these infected women give birth to children who are infected. So it is a major crisis and it will be getting our attention. I have already spent a great deal of time on that.

So to answer to your question is yes.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if we are going to continue to stand behind Taiwan as the years go on.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. (Laughter and Applause.)

We have obligations to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act and the three communiqués that came after the Taiwan Relations Act. And these are obligations we have met over the intervening years to make sure that Taiwan's thriving democracy remains strong and secure. And we had very candid discussions with the Chinese Vice Premier earlier this week, and he understands our commitment and obligation to Taiwan quite clearly.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Secretary Powell. Elise Labott from CNN, if you'll afford a question from your loyal State Department press that covers you every day. You spoke about Russia and some events this week. The Russians made a tit-for-tat today, expelling some of our diplomats. Do you think that this is going to continue, this tit-for-tat, and how is this going to affect US-Russian relations?

And if I might also ask you about something else you said in your speech about China, and that you spoke about a lot of difficult issues. It comes to light that a high-level colonel in the Chinese Army defected in December. Did this come up during your meeting with the Chinese Vice Premier? The Chinese are looking for access to this colonel. And what is happening here?

SECRETARY POWELL: It didn't come up -- on the second point -- it didn't come up in my meetings with the Vice Premier, and I don't think it came up in his meetings with the President.

The situation is that the Chinese asked us last December to locate an individual who was missing. We located that individual, made sure that the person is in good health, made the Chinese aware of his presence. And that is as far as I would like to go. This is a matter that belongs in other Cabinet departments, so I think I'll stick to my knitting in the State Department.

With respect to the Russian action, I have received instructions from -- or I received information from our Embassy in Moscow that the Russians have indicated they will be taking action. We don't really know the specifics of that yet. They haven't identified anyone or any names yet, so we will have to wait and see how that plays out. As far as we are concerned, the action we took the other day was all we are planning in this matter. We will see what the Russians are going to do and what the nature of their action is.

I don't think this really throws us into some new deep thaw. Let me illustrate how broad the relationship is by saying at the same time all this was unfolding last night, and everybody was writing stories about what is going on and how terrible it's going to be, our Space Command was working with Russian authorities to make sure we all knew where the Mir was going. And as it flashed across the southern sky last night, it was the United States Space Command, working with Russian technicians in Russia, in the Republics of Russia and their various installations in Russia, cooperating as they do all the time on this kind of activity.

This morning, when I got word that the Russians were about to take action, I thought it might be appropriate to call our Ambassador in Moscow, who is a very old and dear friend of mine and one of the very best members of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Jim Collins, to just sort of talk him through it, knowing that this could cause a lot of consternation within our Embassy.

But I couldn't find Jim. I got the Deputy Chief of Mission and had a good conversation with him. Ambassador Collins was in Irkutsk about to get on the trans-Siberian express to take a train ride through Siberia because he had a long-planned trip of going along the trans-Siberian and stopping at cities and towns along the way to talk to Russian citizens about America.

So our relationship continues, and we will see what we can do about isolating this one incident, but we will wait to see the totality of Russian response.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

[end]



Released on March 23, 2001

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