Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The US government and human rights in Saudi Arabia: strong words.
"QUESTION: Sean, do you link that case to sort of the broader issue of reforms in Saudi Arabia which you've been pushing for in the past several years, not only in Saudi Arabia but in the whole region, in Egypt and other countries? You've talked about democracy. This is more about human rights, I suppose. But do you link these -- this case to the broader issue of the reforms in the Kingdom at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: The process of change in Saudi Arabia is one that's going to take place over time. And we have talked about the importance of changes within the -- changes in the ability of all citizens of the region, including Saudi Arabia, to participate in the formulation of the laws, the direction that the Kingdom will take, the direction that countries in the region are going to take. Once you have that, once you have the able for all the citizens to participate and have a say in that, then they are going to have to really navigate the various issues that are before them. And they're going to have make some -- make decisions about very basic societal issues and what their norms are. It's going to vary from country to country. So we're not going to try to dictate social norms to various countries. We think it's essential that every individual enjoy basic universal rights that we believe every person on the planet should enjoy, and those include freedom of expression, freedom to choose freely one's leaders. The Saudi Government has committed itself to a pathway of reform, as have other states in the region. That pathway of reform is going to -- each of those states is going to go down that pathway at its own pace, though.
QUESTION: Is your comment about this particular case, though, driven by a desire not to offend Saudi Arabia as a close ally, particularly on the eve of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's -- no, that's not it at all. Look, you have a situation that I think most individuals, for example in our country, just don't understand. We don't understand how something like this could happen. That said, these kinds of decisions are going to have to be decisions that the people of that country, in this case Saudi Arabia, are going to have to take for themselves. We can express our views about that, but ultimately it's going to be up to the individual countries to decide whether or not they are going to take into account the views from the outside world.
QUESTION: When you say, Sean, we have expressed our astonishment, does that -- is that just from you from the podium or has a representation been made to the Saudi Government that --
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware of any direct contact with the Saudis on this issue.Yeah."