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Sudan rebuffs envoy

The president of Sudan yesterday rejected a request from a top U.S. envoy who tried to persuade him to allow U.N. peacekeepers to monitor a fragile cease-fire in the troubled Darfur region, where more than 300,000 people died in 3 years of fighting between government troops and rebels.

However, Lt. Gen. Omar Bashir offered a face-saving gesture to Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, when he agreed to review the detention of U.S. journalist Paul Salopek, charged with espionage over the weekend.

Miss Frazer hoped to persuade Gen. Bashir to meet with President Bush at the United Nations next month to discuss replacing overburdened peacekeepers from the African Union with U.N. monitors. She suggested that Mr. Bush ease some U.S. sanctions on the authoritarian government if it accepted U.N. peacekeepers, press dispatches from Sudan said.

However, the president “reiterated the Sudanese government’s position rejecting” the change in peacekeepers, Bashir spokesman Mahjub Badry told reporters in the capital, Khartoum.

Miss Frazer’s mission almost failed from the moment she landed in Sudan on Saturday, when angry mobs protested at the airport and shouted for her to “go home.” Gen. Bashir on Monday declined her first request for a meeting.

Mr. Badry said the president will review the case of Mr. Salopek “from a humanitarian point of view.” The reporter was on assignment for the Chicago Tribune and National Geographic when he and assistants from Chad were arrested.

Vietnam movement

The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam hopes the communist government is showing signs of reform with its promise to release a prominent dissident from prison, even though it still plans to confine him to three years of house arrest.

The limited freedom promised to Pham Hong Son, arrested four years ago on espionage charges, “is indicative of the movement in Vietnam to allow for some space for political discussion,” Ambassador Michael Marine told reporters in Hanoi.

Dr. Son, a 37-year-old businessman and medical doctor in poor health, is among several prisoners whose sentences were reduced Monday. Those receiving amnesties included Ma Van Bay, a Protestant who the United States suspects was jailed for his religious beliefs.

Mr. Marine cautioned the government against “backsliding” and added his hope that the decisions this week offer a touch of tolerance in a totalitarian society.

“Sometimes the movement seems to be shrinking. Other times, it seems to be expanding,” the ambassador said. “I believe there will be more space in the future.”

Mr. Marine called for the government to restore Dr. Son’s “full rights as a Vietnamese citizen as soon as possible.”

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