- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2000

War in the Horn

When the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea erupted nearly two years ago, the United States feared it would lead to a devastating conflict in the Horn of Africa.
"We saw the conflict then as holding the potential for tragedy, driving apart neighbors, families and friends, hindering development and increasing the instability in the region," Tibor Nagy, the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, said in a recent interview.
"All of those things have indeed come to pass, as well as a tremendous loss of life and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons."
Mr. Nagy, in a interview with Ethiopia's Walta Information Center, said the United States supports a peace plan proposed by the Organization for African Unity. That includes an Eritrean withdrawal "from territories taken by force and previously administered by Ethiopia," Mr. Nagy said.
"Although the OAU took over the lead on pursuing a peaceful settlement, we have remained engaged at a very high level, up to and including President Clinton," he added.
Mr. Nagy urged both sides to continue searching for a diplomatic solution, saying a "continuation of war at this point would be incomprehensible."
The United States has donated about 200,000 tons of food and more than $75 million in aid since the war began, he said.
Mr. Nagy said U.S.-Ethiopian relations are "strong and grounded in mutual interests and strong people-to-people links between our two nations."
Mr. Nagy, who first served in Ethiopia 13 years ago, noted vast improvements in the country.
"Ethiopia has changed a lot," he said. "The country is much more dynamic now, with active privatizations going on, free and fair elections scheduled for May, opposition parties and independent candidates actively vying for … the chance to contest the elections, a federal system of government devolving power to the regions and a private sector seeking new export markets for Ethiopian products."

Austrian compensation

Austria's new governing coalition, widely denounced for including a right-wing party whose former leader was accused of pro-Nazi sympathies, received recognition yesterday from the Clinton administration for plans to repay the victims of Nazi slave labor in World War II.
"It was clear … that a great deal of work has already been done," Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat told reporters after meeting with Maria Schaumayer, Austria's special representative for slave labor issues.
Ms. Schaumayer said the new government acted quickly because the issue had not been settled by the previous government.
"The new Austrian government decided … to quickly address a question which has been on the table of the former government for some time," she said. "People are old. People are ill. We don't want to delay."
The government has been ostracized by the European Union for including the Freedom Party in its coalition. Most of the criticism was directed at Joerg Haider, who stepped down as party leader last month about three weeks after the coalition was formed.
Ms. Schaumayer expects a quick decision on claims compensation by the former slave laborers who are still alive because Germany has already laid the groundwork for dealing with such claims in its Holocaust fund.
"One round or two rounds of talks should be sufficient, once we all sit down at the table and negotiate," she said.
Nearly a million people were subjected to forced labor in Austria between 1938 and 1945. Ms. Schaumayer estimated that only 150,000 are still alive. Most are Poles, Ukrainians and Russians with a few thousand Jews, she said.
Ms. Schaumayer would not speculate on the amount Austria will pay, but indicated the sum would be comparable to the compensation Germany is paying to Holocaust survivors.
"We are first wanting to see how much is covered by Germany," she said.
Talks on German compensation are expected to resume in Berlin today.
After the Austrian fund is established, Ms. Schaumayer said she expects Washington to provide Austrian firms the same protection from U.S. lawsuits that have been promised to German companies.
"He is prepared to give Austria equal treatment," she said, referring to Mr. Eizenstat.

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