- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Rose evolution

The prime minister of Georgia yesterday appealed to Russia to stop interfering in the domestic affairs of its neighbors and called Ukraine a key test for democracy in the region.

Russia is acting “more and more arrogant” in its relations with both Georgia and Ukraine, Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania told a luncheon sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

He said Moscow’s role in the disputed election in Ukraine helped create a political crisis in that nation and Russian interference in Georgia’s troubled Abkhazia region increases the turmoil in that separatist province.

“We want to see a good, friendly, cooperative partner in Russia,” he said, “but we have little grounds for optimism.”

Mr. Zhvania said the stakes in the new presidential election in Ukraine, scheduled for Dec. 26, are “incredibly, incredibly high.” The Ukrainian opposition, influenced by the peaceful “Rose Revolution” in Georgia a year ago, staged massive, peaceful street demonstrations to force a rerun of the deeply flawed Nov. 21 presidential runoff election in which the candidate backed by Moscow claimed victory.

Two weeks ago, Georgia celebrated the anniversary of the revolution that drove Eduard Shevardnadze from power and led to free and fair elections.

“The democratization process brought to Georgia more freedom, political choice and also stability,” Mr. Zhvania said.

He said the removal of Mr. Shevardnadze, a former foreign minister in the Soviet Union, ended the reign of corrupt ex-communists, the “old politburo kleptocracy.”

The new government created economic stability through a flat tax rate, a war on corruption that led to a dramatic increase in tax revenue and the privatization of state-owned industry.

“Georgia is now an inspiration for our friends in the region,” he said.

Marine missing

The U.S. Embassy in Romania is promising to cooperate with Romanian authorities in the investigation of a Marine embassy guard suspected of causing an automobile accident that killed a Romanian rock star.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry is upset that the Marine guard left the country after the Friday night accident in the capital, Bucharest.

Ambassador Jack Dyer Crouch II expressed his regret over the incident and telephoned the son of Teofil Peter, the bass player in the rock group Compact. Mr. Peter was killed when the taxi in which he was riding was struck by another car that failed to yield at an intersection.

Mr. Crouch said the Marine Corps will conduct its own investigation but also will cooperate with Romanian authorities. Marine investigators are scheduled to arrive in Bucharest today.

Nicaragua outrage

The Nicaraguan ambassador was angered when he learned that his country’s top court, dominated by Sandinista judges, overturned the conviction of former President Arnoldo Aleman, who was sentenced last year to three years on embezzlement charges.

Ambassador Salvador Stadthagen said the ruling was part of a deal between the Sandinistas and Mr. Aleman’s Liberal Party to block President Enrique Bolanos’ anti-corruption reforms. The court also acquitted Mr. Aleman on a second charge of money laundering.

“Both rulings clearly prove the lack of independence of the Nicaraguan judiciary system,” the ambassador said in Washington.

He said Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who led a Marxist government in the 1980s, and Mr. Aleman are “clearly using all their undue influence over Nicaraguan institutions to try to stop President Bolanos’ anti-corruption campaign and to deprive him [of] his ability to govern effectively.”

Mr. Stadthagen said the Sandinistas and the Liberal Party support a measure to strip the president of powers to appoint Cabinet ministers and ambassadors.

He accused them of trying to “concentrate even more power in the hands of the strongmen and their cronies.”

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

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