- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

REFORM GENERATION

The Hungarian defense minister appreciates democracy because he grew up under communism but worries that the younger generation, the grandchildren of Hungarian freedom fighters, might be taking civil rights for granted.

“The way they are being socialized is very different from us,” Imre Szekeres told reporters Thursday over breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. “Our generation was lucky in a way. … We understand more what we have than those born into it.”

Although he was only 6 years old when Soviet tanks crushed the 1956 anti-communist uprising, Mr. Szekeres is grateful for the sacrifice of his parents’ generation. As a young adult, he got involved in the growing political reform movement and helped bring down communism in 1989.

“I had the opportunity to be part of changes, very significant political changes,” he said.

As deputy mayor of the city of Veszprem, Mr. Szekeres remembers the excitement of creating reforms that his parents dreamed of.

“It was extraordinary to feel that every day something was happening that would have been unthinkable the day before,” he said.

Mr. Szekeres was in Washington this week for talks with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, National Security Adviser James L. Jones, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and members of Congress.

Their talks included discussions on Hungary’s role in Afghanistan and plans for the NATO summit next month. Hungarian troops are guarding the international airport in the capital, Kabul, and training Afghan helicopter pilots.

Mr. Szekeres said his government thinks that the money spent on deploying troops to Afghanistan could be better spent on training the Afghan national army to fight its own battles against a Taliban resurgence.

“A military solution can stabilize the country, but a military solution in itself cannot assure that Afghans can run their country,” he said.

Mr. Szekeres is also worried that Afghans run the “danger of dependency.”

“Afghans expect solutions from us,” he said.

SHOVAL RETURNS?

A veteran Israeli diplomat might return to Washington for a third term as ambassador to the United States.

Zalman Shoval - a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to be named prime minister of a new conservative government - is likely to succeed Ambassador Sallai Meridor, who announced his resignation last week, according to the New York Jewish Week newspaper.

It added that the appointment would be temporary and that “insiders” in Israel expect Mr. Netanyahu to eventually select Ronald Dermer, another top adviser, as U.S. ambassador.

Mr. Shoval served in Washington from 1990 to 1993 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush and from 1998 to 2000 during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

His contacts from the Clinton years would be valuable in the Obama administration, with Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Rahm Emanuel, a former White House adviser to Mr. Clinton, as the president’s chief of staff.

AMBASSADOR SHAKE-UP

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Thursday picked her ambassador in Washington to succeed Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley, who is resigning.

She said Defense Minister Jose Goni will succeed Ambassador Mariano Fernandez, who has been her envoy to the United States since 2006.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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