Washington, 31 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Bush unequivocally rejected the "gulag" characterization. He called it "absurd," given that a key mission of the United States' is to promote human rights around the world.
Bush said his administration is carefully investigating all reports that people were being abused or intimidated through abuse of their religion or culture. And he cautioned the world to consider the source of such reports.
"The detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees," Bush said. "It seems to me like they [Amnesty International] based some of their decisions on the word of, and the allegations by, people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained, in some instances, to dissemble -- that means not tell the truth -- and so it is an absurd report [from Amnesty International]. It just is."
A reporter also asked Bush why he hasn't been more outspoken
about reports that the Uzbek government opened fire on civilians
in Andijon, perhaps killing hundreds. The reporter posed the same question about Egypt, which promised multiparty elections but did not rein in government supporters who attacked fellow Egyptians voting in a referendum on the subject.
Bush replied that he believed he and his administration had been forthright on these issues. He said his administration expected Egypt -- a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid -- to hold open elections and to reject violence.
"We've called for the International Red Cross to go into the Andijon region to determine what went on. Listen, we expect all our friends, as well as those who aren't our friends, to honor human rights and protect minority rights. That's part of a healthy and peaceful world. It will be a world in which governments do respect people's rights."
As for Uzbekistan, he said: "We've called for the International Red Cross to go into the Andijon region to determine what went on. Listen, we expect all our friends, as well as those who aren't our friends, to honor human rights and protect minority rights. That's part of a healthy and peaceful world. It will be a world in which governments do respect people's rights."'Concerns' Over Khodorkovskii Case
Bush also commented on today's conviction and sentencing of former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovskii and two associates in Moscow on tax and fraud charges. Khodorkovskii, once Russia's richest man, was given nine years in prison. His lawyer said he would appeal.
Many say Russian President Vladimir Putin singled out Khodorkovskii because he challenged Putin politically. As he has before, Bush said he has spoken frankly to Putin on this matter.
"I expressed my concerns about the case to President Putin because, as I explained to him, here [in the United States] you're innocent until proven guilty," Bush said. "And it appeared to us -- at least [to] people in my administration -- that it looked like he had been adjudged guilty prior to having a fair trial. In other words, he was put in prison and then was tried."
Bush said his administration will be closely following Khodorkovskii's appeal. Bush Rejects Critical Report On Guantanamo
There also was a question about Bush's controversial nomination of the outspoken John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Democrats in the U.S. Senate have delayed a confirmation vote on Bolton, saying they are waiting for the administration to give them documents on his past behavior.
Bush called the move a delaying tactic. He said Bolton is the right candidate for U.S. ambassador because he can help reform the UN and restore the American people's trust in it.
"The reason I picked Bolton is he is a no-nonsense kind of fellow who can get things done, and we need to get something done in the United Nations," Bush said. "This is an organization which is important: it can help a lot in terms of the democracy movement, [and] it can help deal with conflict and civil war; but it is an organization that is beginning to lose the trust of the American people, if it hadn't already, and therefore, we need to restore that trust. We pay over [$2 billion] a year into the United Nations, and it makes sense to have somebody there who is willing to say to the United Nations, 'Why don't you reform?'"
Bush also supported the European offer of allowing Iran to apply for membership in the World Trade Organization. He said it is a proper way to accelerate the negotiations about persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Bush repeated his stand that diplomacy is the best way to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program. The only alternative, he said, would be military action.
Bush began the news conference with an opening statement about the state of the U.S. economy. He urged both parties in Congress -- his own Republic Party and Democrats -- to work together on a variety legislation that he said would be good for American workers and businesses.