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Bush Confidant to Head US Public Diplomacy Programs

The president is turning to one of his most trusted political advisers to head the administration's efforts to repair the U.S. image overseas, especially in the Islamic world.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the nomination of Karen Hughes, former counselor to the president, who is returning to public life after leaving the White House in the summer of 2002 to spend more time with her family.

Ms. Hughes will assume what is widely viewed as one of the most difficult jobs in U.S. diplomacy. The post of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has been vacant since last year and the two previous holders of the position resigned.

At a State Department event to announce the nomination, Secretary of State Rice said the United States simply must do better in its public diplomacy, and that too few people around the world are aware of America's values and its efforts to advance democracy.

"Too few know of our deep respect for the history and traditions of others, and our respect for the religions of all," she said. "Too few know of the protections that we provide for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. And too few know of the value we place on international institutions and the rule of law. Too few know, too, that American lives have been lost so that others, including Muslims, might live in freedom and that others might have a future of their own making."

Ms. Rice said much more can be done to confront hateful anti-American propaganda, dispel dangerous myths, and get out the truth about U.S. policy, and that she can think of no one more suited to the task than Karen Hughes.

She said Ms. Hughes will undertake a broad review and restructuring of U.S. public diplomacy, which includes cultural outreach, educational exchanges, information programs and international broadcasting, including Voice of America.

Ms. Hughes said public diplomacy should be as much about listening to and understanding others as it is about speaking about U.S. policy, and that the American message is much more likely to have impact when it is delivered with respect for others' cultures, and understanding for their aspirations.

She said public diplomacy is neither a Republican nor Democratic mission, but an American one, and she acknowledged the difficulties she faces in her new job.

"Perceptions do not change quickly or easily," she said. "This is a struggle for ideas. Clearly, in the world after September 11th, we must do a better job of engaging with the Muslim world. As the 9/11 Commission reported, if the United States does not act aggressively to define itself, the extremists will gladly do the job for us. And our public diplomacy efforts must also engage the wider world, from Europe to Latin America. I cannot imagine anything more exciting than the opportunity to share the America I know with the people of the world."

Ms. Hughes' nomination will require Senate confirmation, and if approved, she will have the rank of ambassador.

Secretary Rice also announced that Dina Powell, White House personnel chief, is being nominated to be Ms. Hughes chief deputy in the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs.

Ms. Powell is an Egyptian-born Arabic speaker who has also served as a spokesperson for administration Middle East policies.

Among those attending the State Department event was former U.S. ambassador to Syria Edward Djerejian, who led a study panel that in late 2003 urged a complete overhaul of U.S. public relations efforts in the Muslim and Arab worlds.

The Djerejian report said hostility toward the United States had reached shocking levels and U.S. public diplomacy efforts should not just be altered, but radically transformed.