- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Mongols to Baghdad

More than six centuries after Mongol conquerors were driven out of Baghdad, Mongolian troops are preparing to return to Iraq — but this time as peacekeepers.

Mongolian Ambassador Ravdan Bold said his government will send about 180 troops to assist the U.S.-led coalition in the reconstruction of the country.

“After 645 years, Mongols are coming back to Iraq as peacekeepers to make their contribution to the war against terrorism,” Mr. Bold said in a paper released to Embassy Row.

A Mongol army led by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Hulagu, burned Baghdad to the ground in 1258.

One hundred years later, the army was driven out by a host of regional forces.

Mr. Bold said Mongolia has backed America’s war against terrorism “from the very beginning” and was a member of the “coalition of the willing” in support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

“Mongolia has so far been relatively safe from direct terrorist threats. But surrounded by two countries with ongoing terrorist activities, it should take some precautions,” he said, referring to China and Russia, both of which face Islamic extremist attacks.

Mr. Bold also said Mongolia is “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Mongolia declared itself a nuclear-weapons-free zone in 1992.

“The nuclear-weapons-free status of Mongolia … is the basis of Mongolia’s good neighborly, balanced relationship with its nuclear neighbors. This becomes one of the factors of ensuring the regional stability,” he said.

Mr. Bold added that Mongolia, which has “deep cultural and historical links” with Koreans, could be a “mediator in the reconciliation” between North and South Korea.

“Small countries tend to understand more of each other’s problems, and Mongolia is willing to participate and contribute to the multilateral talks on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

Mongolia is a democratic country with elections certified as free and fair by international observers. Mr. Bold said his government is developing a market economy to ensure “sustainable development, poverty alleviation” and the creation of a middle class.

“The course of Mongolia’s democracy development can serve as a model for other developing countries,” Mr. Bold said.

Mongolia, with the United Nations, will organize the Fifth International Conference of New and Restored Democracies in September.

He said the outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, had “a negative impact” on Mongolia’s economy, as thousands of tourists canceled trips to the country. However, the World Health Organization praised the country’s efforts to eliminate the disease “in a very short time,” despite the “daily flow of people” between Mongolia and China, which was hit hardest by SARS.

Mr. Bold said Mongols “cherish” their friendly relations with the United States and fondly recall the words of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III:

“The United States is willing to be Mongolia’s third neighbor.”

OAS disappoints U.S.

The United States was disappointed when its candidate for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was not elected to sit on the panel, but the State Department is not taking it personally.

It is the first time since the commission’s establishment in 1959 that the United States has not had a representative there.

Rafael Martinez, a Cuban-American lawyer from Florida and the brother of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, failed to win a seat last week because some nongovernmental organizations objected, saying he had little experience in human rights.

The State Department said Monday that he is well-qualified for the position.

“It is unfortunate. It is a disappointment,” said a State Department official.

The official said that while he did not want to “minimize” the setback, it was not a slap for the United States, unlike when the country failed to get elected to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

“They were not voting for the country, they were voting on the individual,” said the official, adding that the members on the Inter-American Commission Rights Commission do not act as formal representatives of their nominating country.

The commission, part of the 34-member Organization of American States, has seven members who monitor human rights in the hemisphere.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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