(Prague, Czech Republic--January 9, 2008) Four U.S. senators visited Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague today to highlight the continuing U.S. commitment to building democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.
RFE/RL president Jeff Gedmin welcomed what he called "a rare opportunity to show our legislators the essential role RFE/RL plays in building democracy across the troubled regions of the world from Iraq and Afghanistan to Belarus, Russia and Central Asia."
The senators met with RFE/RL broadcasters to discuss programming and the impact of the dollar decline on RFE/RL operations before giving individual interviews taped for broadcasting. Senator Mel Martinez
(R-Florida), in an interview broadcast to Iraqis nationwide by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, said: "The improvement in Iraq's security has been the result of a combination of actions by US troops but also the very courageous actions of so many Iraqis," and that "Americans continue to hope Iraqis and their representative government will come together to reach the type of political reconciliation that is necessary to eliminate sectarianism and live as a united country." Senator John Thune
(R-South Dakota), in an interview for Radio Free Afghanistan, said: "My message to the Afghan people is that freedom works and democracy works... I encourage the Afghan people to stay strong for freedom." Senator Charles Grassley
(R-Iowa) urged Russians not to choose short-term economic well-being and stability over the long-term good that political freedom will bring to enhance the economy." Senator Larry Craig
(R-Idaho) said, "Democracies have proven to be one of the greatest ways of promoting the freedom of the human spirit" and that the desire for human freedom is universal.
Sen. Martinez is leading the group that visited Prague as part of a democracy and trade promotion tour of Europe and Africa.
Transcripts of the interviews the senators gave for RFE/RL broadcasts are being posted on RFE/RL's English language website.