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Embassy Row

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DISMEMBERING GEORGIA

The co-chairmen of a key congressional human rights panel denounced Russia's assault on Georgia, declaring that Moscow resorted to the "law of the jungle" to justify its actions and pledging never to give diplomatic recognition to the Kremlin's "dismemberment" of the former Soviet republic.

"Russia thinks it has the right to exert influence over its neighbors, not by the attraction of ideas, the lure of capital or the power of positive example, but by the domination of sheer force," said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, in a hearing this week. "This is the law of the jungle, not the rule of law."

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, added that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin so manipulated the Russian media coverage of the invasion last month that the reporting resulted in "outbursts of xenophobic bluster."

Mr. Hastings and Mr. Cardin, co-chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, added that the United States will never accept Russia's Aug. 26 decision to grant diplomatic recognition to Georgia's two rebellious provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Russia's victory on the battlefield has allowed it to dismember Georgia," Mr. Hastings said.

However, no "credible international actors" have approved of Russia's invasion but Moscow did win "hurrahs from the terrorist organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah," he noted.

Mr. Cardin said Russia has worked for several years to undermine Georgia by supporting the separatist movements in the two provinces and has repeatedly threatened the nation over its desire to join NATO.

"Since 2000, the Russian state has relentlessly whittled award Georgian society's freedom of expression and ability to maneuver politically," he said. "We now see aggressiveness abroad accompanying repression at home."

Mr. Hastings promised to work to speed up passage of President Bush's request for $1 billion in emergency assistance to Georgia in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

FREE-TRADE PUSH

Diplomats from Colombia, Panama and South Korea this week opened an intense Capitol Hill lobbying campaign to urge Congress to approve free-trade deals with their countries.

However, they said congressional supporters told them that any action is unlikely before the presidential and legislative elections in November. Their only hope is that a lame-duck session of Congress might approve the trade agreements after the election, they told reporters.

"What we are trying to do today is take the Hill by Pacific storm," said Eduardo Munoz, Colombia's deputy minister for foreign trade.

More than 70 Colombian business executives joined the government officials in the three-week campaign that includes 125 scheduled meetings with members of Congress and congressional staffers.

The Colombia deal, which would remove tariffs on U.S. imports, is facing the fiercest opposition from Democrats, who control both houses of Congress. They accuse the conservative Colombian government of failing to protect labor union activists from assassination by right-wing paramilitary groups. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says his government has prosecuted more suspects in attacks on union leaders than did any previous administration.

South Korean Ambassador Lee Tae-sik warned the United States that it risks a further loss of its share of the Korean economy by blocking the trade deal.

"The United States used to be number one in South Korea," he told reporters at a Capitol Hill rally Wednesday. "But now it's number three or four."

He added that South Korea is already negotiating a free-trade agreement with the European Union.

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

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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