- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 1999

Beyond Patten

Members of the Congress are urging the British government to adopt far broader reforms to the Northern Irish police force than those recommended in a British report that recommended fundamental changes to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on international operations and human rights, presented a letter this week to Peter Mandelson, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland, calling for the RUC report to serve as a “floor, not a ceiling, for human rights reforms.”
The letter suggested removing human rights abusers from the police force, banning plastic bullets and prohibiting officers from joining sectarian organizations.
A report submitted earlier this year by Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, concluded that more Catholics need to be recruited into the Protestant-dominated police force. Its recommendations also included renaming the RUC and stripping it of certain symbols on badges and emblems that emphasized a link to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Smith, New Jersey Republican, held a recent hearing on the report where Mr. Patten outlined his conclusions. Mr. Smith, in a statement yesterday, said the British government should “move beyond the report so that serious reform would take place.”
“We’re hoping that they agree that the report is just a start,” Mr. Smith said. “If systemic changes are not made, human rights abuses will go on, and a lasting peace will be harder to maintain.”

Arming the Philippines

Philippines Ambassador Ernesto Maceda has informed his government that the United States is prepared to release surplus military equipment and allocate $10 million in aid to improve the Philippine’s poorly equipped military.
The Philippines government, encouraged by Mr. Maceda’s reports, is planning to send a high-level defense team to Washington next week.
“They will discuss the framework of assistance and plan out what we could obtain in terms of defense articles,” Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told reporters yesterday in Manila.
The mission will be headed by Defense Undersecretary Esteban Conejos, he said.
“Hopefully, this will start our official access to defense articles of the United States for a better military,” Mr. Mercado said.
Reports in the Philippines say the Pentagon has surplus A-4 jets, UH-1H helicopters, amphibious landing crafts and other naval vessels.
Defense ties between the Philippines and the United States have improved since the Philippines Senate in May approved an agreement to allow the visit of U.S. troops for war games.
Relations were at their lowest in 1992, when the Philippines expelled all U.S. troops.

No Kuwait deal

Kuwait is insisting there is no hidden mission behind a visit to Washington this week by Sheik Saud Nasser Sabah, the country’s oil minister
Sheik Saud, a former ambassador to Washington, left Kuwait yesterday and was due here today on a private visit. The government denied Kuwaiti media reports that he intended to hold negotiations with U.S. oil executives on opening up the emirate’s northern fields to foreign investment.
“Sheik Saud Nasser al-Sabah’s trip to the United States is not at the invitation of [Energy Secretary] Bill Richardson,” said a spokesman for state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp., which Sheik Saud heads.
“The minister will not meet with any U.S. oil major executives, but will deliver a few lectures at various American institutions,” the spokesman added.
Sheik Saud is accompanied by Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheik Saad Abdullah Sabah, who is traveling here for medical treatment. Reports from Kuwait gave no other details on his medical condition.
Sheik Saud announced last year that foreign companies would be invited to invest $7 billion dollars to develop Kuwait’s oil fields near the border with Iraq.
Meanwhile, Ali Naimi, oil minister of Saudi Arabia, is due in Washington tomorrow to address invited guests at an energy conference sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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