- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Pakistan's hopes

"Who's going to win?" Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi asked yesterday, as editors and reporters from The Washington Times arrived at her residence for lunch.

Miss Lodhi, like other ambassadors in Washington, has been closely following the presidential election recount in Florida and becoming anxious over the delay.

Her guests had little insight to give her, and she said she had little to give her government in Islamabad.

"I tell my Foreign Ministry I have nothing to report because they are seeing it all on CNN. CNN is going to put diplomats out of business," she said.

Miss Lodhi said her country will work with whomever is elected but hopes a new administration will concentrate on building closer relations with Pakistan, which suffered a blow to its reputation after a military coup last year overthrew a corrupt, if democratically elected, government.

"A military government is a response to an extraordinary set of circumstances," she said.

President Clinton spent only a few hours visiting Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on a five-day trip to India last year.

Miss Lodhi said the United States and other countries must give Pakistan time to return to democracy. Elections are scheduled in 2002.

"It seems like a long way away, but it really isn't," she said.

Pakistan is updating electoral roles and making other voting reforms. It is prosecuting corrupt officials of previous regimes and tackling severe economic problems.

"This is a critical time in the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States," she said.

Miss Lodhi expects no change in the "strategic relationship" under a Bush or Gore administration. Both countries have a desire for a stable and secure South Asian region, especially concerning the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons.

She said Pakistan has no interest in an arms race with India, which exploded nuclear devices in 1998, prompting Pakistan to do the same.

"But if you move into a deployment phase, you move into a hair-trigger situation," she said.

Miss Lodhi noted that some Pakistani observers believe the United States has tilted toward India under the Clinton administration, but she believes U.S. relations with India does not mean a lessening of ties with Pakistan.

"It does not have to be a zero-sum game," she said.

Miss Lodhi hopes the next U.S. president will support debt relief for Pakistan, which owes about $38 billion in foreign loans.

"I hope the United States will help Pakistan in the areas where it really counts the economic aspect," she said.

Albright's legacy

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday noted with regret that she has only two more months to serve as America's top diplomat.

She expressed pride in her service in the Clinton administration at State and earlier as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and defended decisions that have drawn criticism.

Her advocacy of U.S. intervention in Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing earned the conflict the nickname "Madeleine's War."

"I am proud as well to have served these past seven … years under the leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore," she told the Women's Foreign Policy Group.

"When they took office, the overriding foreign policy question our nation faced was whether to remain on the center stage of world affairs or grab a chair somewhere up in the mezzanine."

She said Mr. Clinton "firmly resisted the lure of isolation."

Mr. Clinton's critics complain that he has committed too many troops to peacekeeping operations and conducted an aimless foreign policy.

Mrs. Albright, however, claimed a long list of successes.

"Under [Mr. Clinton's] direction," she said, "we enlarged and strengthened NATO, reduced the nuclear danger in the former Soviet Union, stabilized and improved our relations with China, enhanced stability on the Korean Peninsula, blazed a trail for democratic change in the Balkans, opened a new chapter in our relations with India, increased cooperation in our own hemisphere, helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, and worked to integrate Africa into the world economy."

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