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Funding Scarce for Export of Democracy

The budget he submitted to Congress two weeks later, however, included no huge new investment in such institutions beyond the Muslim world.

The National Endowment for Democracy, which funds the IRI, the NDI and other programs, received $80 million, twice its budget of two years ago, but the entire $40 million increase went to Bush's Middle East democracy initiative, leaving everything else flat. Voice of America received an extra $10 million, but it was devoted to expanding programs in Persian, Dari, Urdu and Pashtu aimed at non-Arabic Muslim listeners. The only other broadcasts to get major funding increases were those aimed at Cuba, which went from $27 million to $37.9 million.

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At the same time, funding for the Support for East European Democracy Act was sliced by an additional $14 million, to $382 million. The largest part of this program is aimed at Serbia, still in transition from the era of Slobodan Milosevic. And funding for the Freedom Support Act focusing on Russia and 11 other former Soviet republics was slashed by $78 million, to $482 million, down from $894 million in 2002.

"The U.S. government is not well organized right now to realize the administration's rhetoric on democracy," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, an organization that promotes democracy abroad.

The cuts to the Freedom Support Act have drawn criticism from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.); his panel this month adopted a statement urging the administration "to consider the harm its proposed cuts in funding assistance could have on U.S. interests in stability, democracy and market reform" in the region.

The funding reductions come at a time when such programs have enjoyed successes in Georgia and Ukraine, where U.S.-trained activists helped push out unpopular governments. To help consolidate the gains, Bush attached $60 million for Ukraine to his supplemental appropriation bill funding the war in Iraq, with money earmarked to promote judicial independence, youth participation in politics, legal protections for press freedom and preparations for parliamentary elections.

But even as Bush plans to host new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, the House cut the funding request nearly in half.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said he focused on programs that will help Yushchenko in the short term and promised to revisit Ukraine in upcoming budget deliberations for fiscal 2006.

"There's finite resources," Kolbe said. "There's never enough to do what you want to do, but I think we're making a good effort."

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