- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

World watches Lebanon

The chairman of a Senate subcommittee on the Middle East is calling on Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah guerrillas from controlling the southern part of the country and protect Lebanese Christians living in the area formerly occupied by Israel.

"Lebanon is in a sad situation," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican. "It is a nation torn by sectarian strife, occupied by tens of thousands of Syrian troops and overrun with terrorists. In the final analysis, however, the government of Lebanon must be called to account."

During the 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, the world "bemoaned Lebanon's fate without demanding responsible leadership," he said, in a statement.

With the Israeli withdrawal, "that era is now over," he added.

Mr. Brownback, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, also insisted that Syria withdraw from Lebanon.

He demanded that the Lebanese disarm the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas who moved quickly into Christian villages after Israeli troops left last week. Villagers complained of being robbed and intimidated by the guerrillas.

Lately, however, Hezbollah militants have left those villages and are trying to maintain order along the Lebanese-Israeli border where Lebanese protesters and Israeli soldiers have clashed, according to reports yesterday from Lebanon.

Nevertheless the United Nations remains worried that violence along the border could spread and is trying to work out details for the deployment of peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

Mr. Brownback echoed those concerns when he called on Lebanon to allow the United Nations to move into the former occupation zone.

"The fate of a number of Christians and Muslims in southern Lebanon hangs in the balance," Mr. Brownback said.

"Will they be subject to the whims of yet another Lebanese militia, a Hezbollah state within a state? Will Christians be forced to flee, … or will the Lebanese central government … take control of southern Lebanon and ensure the safety and security for all?

"Or will Lebanon remain a pawn in the hands of terrorists, a puppet state in the hands of Syria and Iran? … Hezbollah must be disarmed. The Syrian military must be evicted.

"The world is watching, and the time is now."

Romania looks west

Romanian Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu praised his country's advancement from repression to capitalism, as he visited Washington last week.

Yesterday, however, he was home trying to quell fears raised in an investment scheme that promised quick riches but is now failing and panicking its 300,000 investors.

In his second financial crisis, Mr. Isarescu had to calm depositors who nearly made a run on the nation's largest bank. After about 500 people demonstrated outside the Romanian Commercial Bank, he issued a statement assuring them their deposits are guaranteed by the government.

However, the government has nothing to do with the high-risk National Fund for Investment, he said. The government ordered the fund, which promised returns of 200 percent on investments, to stop operating as of tomorrow.

In Washington, Mr. Isarescu assured audiences at public policy forums that Romania has embraced free markets and democracy since the fall of overthrow and execution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

"The distance we have traveled from the most repressive political and economic system in central Europe to present day Romania is a monument to the power of democratic ideas and the economic dynamism of free markets," he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Isarescu said Romania's two most important goals are to join the European Union and NATO.

"We have always understood that, if Europe was ever to become truly whole and completely free, the new democracies of [Central and Eastern] Europe would have to join the two complementary and mutually reinforcing pillars of the trans-Atlantic community," he said.

The new democracies are committed to the "progressive reintegration into the political, economic and security institutions of the West," he said.

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