- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Ambassador outraged
The U.S. ambassador to Russia has denounced an article carried on the Web site of a major conservative magazine as a "willful slander" against U.S. Embassy staff and State Department officials.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, in a letter to the editor of National Review Online, protested an article carried on Nov. 21 that accused some embassy personnel of working to promote prostitution in Russia.
Mr. Vershbow said he was "outraged" when he read the article by Donna Hughes, who referred to "officials at the Moscow embassy who continue to actively work with the pro-prostitution mafia and to support its legislative agenda."
Mrs. Hughes, a professor at the University of Rhode Island and an expert on the exploitation of women, claimed the State Department is siding with nongovernmental organizations that want to reclassify prostitution as "sex work" and legitimize the widespread trafficking in girls and women in Russia.
She said the United States was aligning itself with "organized-crime groups, corrupt politicians and strip club owners."
Mr. Vershbow, whose letter can be found at www.nationalreview.com, wrote that the article "is so permeated with false claims and distortions that it borders on willful slander."
"Mrs. Hughes distorts U.S. government policy of trafficking in persons, portraying it as driven by a 'pro-prostitution mafia' that includes the Department of State in league with the American Embassy in Moscow. This is absurd," Mr. Vershbow wrote.
He said the United States is supporting reformers in the Russian parliament who are working to draft Russia's first anti-trafficking legislation.
"Criminalizing and eradicating this shameful, immoral trade is a major objective of the U.S. government and my embassy in support of the growing anti-trafficking movement inside Russia, itself," Mr. Vershbow said.
Mrs. Hughes, who responded to Mr. Vershbow's letter, said her article was an attempt to expose some diplomats who were lending support to the legalization of prostitution.
She said her article "created a furor" and helped reformers "gain broad support for legislation that criminalizes the full scope of predatory tactics used by traffickers to recruit and exploit women."
Greek generosity
He came to pray, but seized the moment to tell U.S. officials that Greece plans to spend $500 million for the reconstruction of the Balkans in the wake of the upheaval in the past decade that obliterated Yugoslavia from the face of Europe.
Andreas Loverdo, Greece's deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, participated last week, with 143 other representatives of the international community, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
While here, he found time to meet Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Alan Larson, the State Department's undersecretary for economic affairs, briefing them on Greece's efforts to rebuild the region.
At the Greek Embassy later, Mr. Loverdo met with an audience that included reporter Gus Constantine of The Washington Times and sketched his economic vision for Greece on the European stage.
"With so much involvement already in the region, Greece could serve as a platform for U.S. and other investments in a broad region that stretches from Central Europe to the Black Sea and beyond," he said.
He pointed out that, even now, about 3,000 companies and six banks are involved in the Balkan rebuilding project, working on projects such as refugee resettlement and the rehabilitation of agriculture. They are at work in Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia and Montenegro, the new name for the former Yugoslavia.
Embassy evacuation
The U.S. Embassy in Israel plans to evacuate nonessential personnel, as a precaution in case of war with Iraq.
"People will start to leave from the middle of this week," embassy spokesman Paul Paten told the Agence France-Presse in Tel Aviv.
"Iraq is part of the regional context," he said, adding that the embassy has not received any specific threat.
Most of the evacuated staff will be reassigned to the State Department in Washington.

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