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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

The odd couple

Just as a new version of the musical "The Odd Couple" is playing on Broadway, Washington got its own version of a mismatched pair trying to make sense of the world. But in the performance in the nation's capital, the two get along.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, a Democrat, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, have joined forces as leaders of a coalition for a bipartisan foreign policy, at a time, they said, when the political atmosphere in Washington is nastier than ever, our correspondent Nicholas Kralev reports.

"This is the perfect time to knit together a constituency for doing good," Mrs. Albright said at a lunch at the Aspen Institute this week. "I'm proud to be associated with Senator Brownback, who has chosen to work on really difficult problems."

The senator, whose concerns include human rights in places such as Sudan and North Korea, said there is a "clear opportunity to do a very constructive foreign policy in left-right coalitions." Mr. Brownback is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian affairs.

Mrs. Albright and Mr. Brownback spoke after addressing a human rights conference at Georgetown University, which also featured Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican.

Even though Mrs. Albright and Mr. Brownback disagree on how to deal with rogue states such as Iran and North Korea — with Democrats advocating direct engagement as opposed to the Republicans' harder line — they said they can work together on issues such as women's rights and human trafficking and on humanitarian crises.

"We'll meet America's greatness by showing our goodness," Mr. Brownback said.

Zimbabwe corruption

The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe denounced the "gross mismanagement of the economy" and "corrupt rule" of President Robert Mugabe, whose land redistribution policies are blamed for staggering inflation, unemployment and food shortages.

Ambassador Christopher Dell said this week, "Neither drought nor sanctions are at the root of Zimbabwe's decline. The Zimbabwe government's own gross mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis."

Mr. Dell's remarks were his strongest criticism of Mr. Mugabe, who has blamed the weather and U.S. sanctions for skyrocketing inflation, unemployment above 70 percent and shortages of fuel, food and foreign currency, Reuters news agency reported from the capital, Harare.

Mr. Dell, in a speech titled "Plain Talk About Zimbabwe's Economy," said the United States will maintain a travel ban on top officials until Mr. Mugabe improves the human rights conditions in his southern African nation.

The ambassador blamed the food shortages on Mr. Mugabe's policies of taking land away from white farmers and giving it to poor blacks with no agricultural experience. He said a constitutional amendment that nationalized all the confiscated land scared away foreign investors.

"Nothing rattles investor confidence more than the prospect of expropriation," Mr. Dell said.

"The constitutional amendment striking down the right to redress for victims of land expropriation sent a shock wave through the community of investors who keep an eye on the climate in Zimbabwe," he added.

Warning Venezuela

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela this week warned President Hugo Chavez against transferring U.S.-made fighter jets to other countries, such as Cuba or China, without Washington's approval.

Ambassador William Brownfield said the 1982 contract for the sale of 21 F-16 fighters prevents Venezuela from acting unilaterally.

The contract "says precisely and clearly that the Venezuelan government has the obligation to consult before transferring those planes to any other country in the world," he told reporters in the capital, Caracas.

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