- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 1999

March over the Danube

Ten years ago, Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora, then a human rights advocate in Czechoslovakia, proposed a dramatic march across a Danube River bridge into Austria to test whether the country had really achieved freedom in the Velvet Revolution a month earlier.
On Dec. 10, 1989, more than 150,000 residents of Bratislava, now the Slovak capital, cut through a barbed wire barrier and walked into Hainburg, Austria. No troops attempted to stop them.
“This was the first large-scale march of citizens across the Iron Curtain, and it succeeded in giving Europe it’s first taste of the Czech and Slovak desire to rejoin the ranks of a democratic state,” the Slovak Embassy said in a statement.
Today, Mr. Butora plans to commemorate that march over the Danube with a forum on Slovak human rights at American University. The forum will focus on the rights of Gypsies, or Roma, which the embassy called “one of the newest challenges to Slovakia’s young democracy.”
“Though isolated and persecuted throughout Europe for centuries, the Roma have seen a rise in violence and prejudice against their ethnicity within the last decade,” the embassy said.
“Fueled by a recent wave of nationalist fervor in Eastern and Central Europe, many countries have chosen to ignore the question of how to handle human rights violations of these people. This panel will … attempt to find a possible solution.”
The panel, which meets from 3 to 6 p.m., will be held at American University’s Ward Circle Building, Auditorium 2, at the corner of Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues NW.

Kudos to Japan

Japanese Ambassador Shunji Yanai received some good news during a meeting this week at the State Department, where officials expressed support for Japan’s recent moves to improve relations with North Korea.
Mr. Yanai told reporters this week that he briefed Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, the State Department counselor, on a visit to North Korea by a delegation of Japanese legislators this month.
She said the United States hopes the visit will serve to help restart talks between Japan and North Korea, Mr. Yanai told Japan’s Kyodo News Service.
She welcomed the talks, especially because Japan has made less progress than the United States and South Korea in their talks with the Stalinist North Korea.
The Japanese mission was led by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

Sudan blocks visit

Sudan has voted against inviting a U.S. envoy to visit the war-torn country, after the United States agreed on a proposal to supply food aid to rebel-held areas.
Legislators voted unanimously late Tuesday against a visit by U.S. envoy Harry Johnston, who has said he would go to Khartoum only if invited by the government, the state-run Omdurman radio reported yesterday.
Mr. Johnston “should not be served an invitation, and he should not be received,” the radio quoted lawmakers as saying.
When Mr. Johnston was appointed in August, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright promised he would pressure the Muslim government of Sudan to improve its human rights record and to negotiate a settlement with the mainly Christian and animist rebels.
Nearly 2 million people have died in fighting and from famines since the war began in 1983.

Investing in Nigeria

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria William Twaddell has signed an agreement with Nigeria to encourage American companies to do business there.
The accord, also signed by Nigerian Finance Minister Adamu Chiroma, would provide investment insurance and other guarantees in the oil-rich but notoriously corrupt economy.
Mr. Twaddell said the accord will “give further stimulation and support for corporations and individuals from America.”
A visiting congressional delegation witnessed the signing ceremony.
“This agreement is an important step forward in the economic relationship between Nigeria and America,” said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat.
The delegation will also visit Zimbabwe and South Africa.

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