- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Back to Cuba

Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra says Elian Gonzalez should go back to Cuba with his father, even though Mr. Vondra knows what life is like under a dictatorship.

Mr. Vondra, writing in the Czech Embassy newsletter, also complains that Cuba took political advantage of the case and ignored the wishes of the mother, who drowned trying to escape Cuba with her son.

He is apparently the first foreign ambassador in Washington to address publicly the case of the 6-year-old Cuban boat boy. Other ambassadors contacted by Embassy Row declined to discuss the issue, calling it a domestic matter.

"Castro's regime propagandistically exploited this tragic situation, ignoring Elian's late mother's motivation for taking him to the U.S. in the first place," Mr. Vondra wrote.

"However, I believe that now, with Elian's father having arrived in the U.S., it is time to let the child return home, provided this is where his father truly wants his family to live."

Mr. Vondra endorses "contacts and dialogue" with Cuba.

"Isolation only shields dictatorships from necessary changes, while openness eventually erodes them," he writes.

Mr. Vondra discusses the Elian Gonzalez case in a column on his country's efforts to condemn Cuba before the U.N. Human Rights Commission. The Czech Republic and Poland sponsored the resolution, which passed last month on a vote of 21-20 with 12 abstentions.

"It is obvious why Czech diplomacy has been engaged in the active defense of human rights. We remember that the democratic revolutions [in Eastern Europe] in 1989 would not have been possible without the support and solidarity our activists received from the governments of the United States and other countries," he wrote.

"We likewise remember that repressive regimes are prone to change only under sustained pressure from both within and without.

"It is for this reason that Czech diplomacy has maintained communication with Cuban human rights activists."

The Czech Republic, which has diplomatic relations with Cuba, was the target of street protests and "furious denunciations" on Cuban state television for sponsoring the U.N. resolution, Mr. Vondra said.

Pickering to Pakistan

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering will travel to Pakistan this week as a prelude to a visit to Washington next month by Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar.

Mr. Pickering, who leaves tomorrow for three days of talks, will meet with Mr. Sattar and possibly military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters yesterday in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad.

"The agenda will cover the entire spectrum of Pakistan-U.S. relations, as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest," Iftikhar Murshed said at a press conference.

Mr. Pickering and Mr. Sattar will discuss Indian-Pakistani relations, including the dispute between the two countries over Kashmir, and "global problems such as narcotics, terrorism and [nuclear] non-proliferation matters," Mr. Murshed said.

Mr. Pickering will be the highest-level U.S. official to visit Pakistan since President Clinton traveled there in March.

Mr. Sattar is expected to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on his visit to Washington in mid-June.

Mission from Morocco

Edward M. Gabriel, the U.S. ambassador to Morocco, will accompany a Moroccan delegation to the United States next month to promote investment in the North African nation.

This "unique" mission is authorized under a 1998 U.S. government program, the Eizenstat Initiative for a U.S.-North Africa Economic Partnership.

Traveling with Mr. Gabriel will be Moroccan Economic and Finance Minister Fathallah Oualalou and Tourism Minister Hassan Sebbar. The delegation will hold conferences in New York on June 26, in Chicago June 27-29, and in San Francisco beginning on the evening of June 29 and continuing the next day.

The Morocco-United States Council on Trade and Investment, which is promoting the forums, can be reached by calling 212/218-5750 or by e-mail at reception@usmor.com.

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