- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Kazakh ‘cancer’

The Kazakh Embassy yesterday defended the government of the Central Asian nation against charges by a U.S. diplomat that a “cancer of corruption” is undermining its shaky progress toward democracy.

“Corruption is a problem that faces many countries, including the United States, and Kazakhstan is very serious in fighting this phenomenon,” the embassy said in response to comments by Stephan Minikes, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Mr. Minikes, on a visit to the former Soviet republic yesterday, told reporters, “The cancer … that is eating away at your country is the cancer of corruption.

“As long as that corruption prevails, the full fruits of democracy and the full fruits of a market economy will never come to the people of Kazakhstan.”

Mr. Minikes issued his warning as a federal court in New York is preparing to open a case against a U.S. businessman accused of paying $78 million in bribes to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and another politician to win oil contracts in the energy-rich nation. Mr. Nazarbayev has strongly denied the charges.

The OSCE, Europe’s human rights and democracy watchdog agency, has been critical of past Kazakh elections. Mr. Minikes was in Kazakhstan to discuss the country’s request to chair the OSCE in 2009.

He said the elections scheduled in the fall give Kazakhstan the chance to demonstrate its commitment to democracy.

“The opportunity that lies ahead for your country — and it’s a great opportunity — is the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections,” Mr. Minikes said. “The only way to address this is through what I like to call the cleansing tide of the democratic process.”

In Washington, the Kazakh Embassy said the “people of Kazakhstan have followed the path of democracy and a market economy since the first days of our independence” after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The embassy added that the democratic process “has become irreversible.” It noted that Mr. Nazarbayev recently rejected a proposed law that would have imposed “harsh requirements” on the press and signed a law to “ensure transparency [in government] and the free expression of citizens’ will.”

Kazakhstan was the first country among the former Soviet republics “to pass a specific law on the fight against corruption” and to establish a government agency to enforce laws against bribery, money laundering and other financial crimes, the embassy said.

“These measures and the universal condemnation of this scourge, as well as the strengthening of the democratic process in Kazakhstan, gives us confidence that our country will be successful in fighting the metastasis of this international phenomenon,” the embassy said.

The federal case against international oil consultant James Giffen accuses him of arranging payments from Mobil Corp., now ExxonMobil, to Mr. Nazarbayev and former Kazakh oil minister Nurlan Balgymbayev, press reports said.

Mr. Giffen has maintained his innocence and refused to accept a plea bargain. His trial is scheduled to open June 3.

Money for Haiti

The Bush administration plans to spend an additional $100 million to help Haiti recover from years of economic and political chaos, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti James B. Foley said this week.

“With the announcement of this urgent assistance, we are closing a first chapter of our relations with Haiti with regard to the transition under way,” he said.

The United States already has committed $55 million to help Haiti recover after an armed revolt overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February. Washington also authorized $5 million to help fund the Haiti mission of the Organization of American States.

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

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