- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Prosecute, says Helms

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms is calling for prosecution of the Cuban diplomats who assaulted demonstrators in Washington 10 days ago.

The North Carolina Republican wrote Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to insist she call on the Cuban Interests Section to identify the diplomats and revoke their diplomatic immunity so they can be prosecuted.

If the Cuban government refuses to identify the "thugs," Mrs. Albright should expel those "personnel suspected in the attack," Mr. Helms said.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin yesterday said the United States has "demanded an explanation [but has] not received one."

He said the department will wait for a D.C. police investigation to be completed before taking any further steps.

A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Police reports show that on April 14 at least 10 men rushed from inside the Cuban compound on 16th Street NW and assaulted anti-Castro protesters holding a prayer vigil for Elian Gonzalez.

The report completed just after the confrontation listed no arrests or serious injuries.

Mr. Helms, however, said "firsthand reports" to his committee staff tell a different story.

"One woman was picked up and thrown to the ground; another was tossed onto the pavement," Mr. Helms wrote. "Victims were beaten with flagpoles that the Cuban attackers had ripped from the victims' hands.

"Several victims sought medical treatment for their injuries, and at least 10 filed complaints with the police. According to witnesses, the attackers relented only after two U.S. Secret Service officers beat them back with batons."

"Madame Secretary," he added, "this sort of savage behavior is just another day at the office for Castro's police in Havana. But when it happens on the streets of our nation's capital, it is outrageous and intolerable."

Indian diplomacy

Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra has dismissed criticism that Indian diplomacy failed to stop President Clinton from visiting Pakistan on his South Asian trip last month.

Mr. Chandra told the newspaper India Today that his government never attempted to prevent Mr. Clinton from meeting Pakistani military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Indian diplomats did warn Mr. Clinton of the impact of the Pakistan visit on Indian public opinion, he said. But India never insisted that Mr. Clinton promise not to go to Pakistan as a precondition of his visit to India.

"Indian diplomacy did not fail," Mr. Chandra said. "In fact, Indian diplomacy alerted the U.S. administration of possible dangers."

Those warnings, Mr. Chandra said, allowed the White House to argue successfully that the visit would not legitimize the rule of Gen. Musharraf, who overthrew a democratically elected but corrupt government last year.

"The approach of the government of India has been very much distorted in some sections of the press," Mr. Chandra said in the interview, which is reprinted in the April edition of the Indian Embassy newsletter.

"You'll be glad to know that our invitation to the U.S. president was unconditional," he said. "It was our duty to inform the U.S. side in advance about the adverse reaction in India to a visit to Pakistan at this time."

"We always said this is a decision for the U.S. president to take and the warmth and the scale of our reception would not be affected if he decided to visit Pakistan," Mr. Chandra added.

The ambassador cited the future value of the first visit by an American president in more than 20 years, even though Mr. Clinton is in his last nine months in office.

"The main purpose of President Clinton's visit was to send a clear signal that both India and the U.S. are ready and committed to forge a new relationship in the 21st century," Mr. Chandra said.

Walsh to Argentina

President Clinton says he intends to nominate David Walsh, a career Foreign Service officer, to be the next ambassador to Argentina.

Mr. Walsh is serving as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Spain.

He also has served as the second-highest-ranking diplomat at the embassies in Canada and in Argentina.

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