- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‘CLAPTRAP’ IN WASHINGTON

A spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban called Washington news reports of tension between him and the United States “claptrap,” after the Hungarian leader met with the U.S. ambassador last week.

The U.S. Embassy in Budapest described the 90-minute meeting between Mr. Orban and Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis “warm and productive.”

“It turned out that not only in Hungary but also in America there are journalists with vivid imaginations and time on their hands who … come up with all sorts of claptrap,” Mr. Orban’s spokesman, Peter Szijjarto, told the Hungarian news agency MTI.

The Budapest Times reported that a column in The Washington Post “sparked widespread speculation” in Hungary that Mrs. Kounalakis planned to reprimand Mr. Orban about a new Hungarian media law and his recent moves to amend the constitution without support from the political opposition.

Mr. Orban “made it clear” to the U.S. ambassador that the Hungarian parliament “legislates for the good of the Hungarian people to the best of its ability,” Mr. Szijjarto said.

The U.S. Embassy said the prime minister and the ambassador had “a very warm and productive meeting” in which they discussed a “wide range of issues.”

The embassy said Mrs. Kounalakis also thanked Hungary for representing U.S. interests in Libya when the United States had no diplomatic mission there.

The embassy hinted at issues raised by Washington Post columnist Al Kamen, who reported last month that Mr. Orban was avoiding Mrs. Kounalakis. He said she planned to present him with an official diplomatic complaint about his “increasingly anti-democratic antics.”

Mrs. Kounalakis “discussed developments in Hungary, including the concerns mentioned” by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit to Budapest in June, the embassy said.

“These issues were raised as a friend with the understanding that Hungary is a democracy with an elected government that has been given a rare two-thirds mandate by the people of Hungary,” the embassy said.

On her visit, Mrs. Clinton warned Mr. Orban against letting Hungarian democracy “backslide.”

“As friends of Hungary, we expressed our concerns and particularly called for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press and governmental transparency,” Mrs. Clinton said in a joint news conference with Mr. Orban.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?

Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali is worried about the future of his country without NATO support.

He told the annual conference of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations that Libya still faces security threats from armed elements still loyal to the dead dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.

“Libya has no army, no police,” he said at the conference Friday. “There are security brigades formed under Gadhafi’s sons whose purpose is not to protect the country, but to protect the regime, the family.”

Although the provisional revolutionary council last week declared the country liberated, Mr. Aujali warned that Libya cannot succeed on its own.

“We need help from the international community,” he said.

The U.N. Security Council, which authorized the NATO mission in March to protect Libyan civilians during the civil war, called a halt to the operation Thursday. It officially ended on Monday.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Tripoli on Monday to declare that a “successful chapter in NATO’s history is coming to an end.”

However, in his speech to the conference, Mr. Aujali expressed his disappointment. For him, NATO has not accomplished it mission.

“The Security Council ended the mission of NATO,” he said. “I was not very happy.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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