- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

'Fig leaf' democracies blasted by U.N. chief

NEW YORK U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world's parliaments yesterday to reject the "fig leaf democracy" of elections held in nations without free speech and a free press.

Opening the first global conference of presiding officers of national parliaments from 141 countries, he said "rights cannot be guaranteed simply by holding elections."

"We have, in a number of recent instances, witnessed attempts to cloak the outright subversion of democracy in the mantle of defending it. We have heard governments claim to be acting in the best interests of the people, even when showing contempt for their choices," he said.

"Constitutional rule is not always reversed suddenly in one dark night of terror. Often it is done slowly and incrementally, institution by institution, under the guise of defending democracy," he added, warning against the new threat of "fig-leaf democracy."

Mbeki asks country to overcome racism

JOHANNESBURG President Thabo Mbeki urged South Africans of all races yesterday to work together to overcome the racism that continues to plague the country six years after the fall of the apartheid regime.

Speaking during the opening of a national conference on racism, Mr. Mbeki recounted whites' historical role in the oppression of blacks in South Africa, but urged the country to move beyond the wrongs of the past and concentrate on "the objective of creating a truly nonracial society."

"Racism continues to be our common bedfellow," Mr. Mbeki said. "All of us are therefore faced with the challenge to translate the dream of a nonracial society into reality."

U.N. arms inspectors ready for Iraq duty

NEW YORK The new U.N. arms inspection agency is ready to begin work in Iraq in preparation for checking on clandestine weapons programs, although Baghdad has repeatedly said it will not allow the U.N. teams into the country.

In a written report to the U.N. Security Council yesterday, the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Hans Blix, gave an account of recent recruitment, training and organizational activities.

His agency was set up in December to replace the U.N. Special Commission, which, together with its last chief, Richard Butler of Australia, was repeatedly attacked by Iraq's allies on the council, Russia, China and France.

Milosevic opens ballot to Serbs in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic's government announced yesterday that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections also would be open to Serbs in Kosovo, a move that could heighten pre-election tensions.

The plan will open about 500 polling stations in the troubled southern province for the Sept. 24 election. The United Nations is preparing to hold local elections in Kosovo on Oct. 28.

The announcement appeared to be an effort to show that Milosevic's government still considers Kosovo to be a part of Yugoslavia.

U.S. doubts legitimacy of Haitian parliament

The United States said yesterday that the legitimacy of the newly elected Haitian parliament was in doubt because of electoral disputes still pending when it held its first session Monday.

Nineteen senators and 82 members of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in the bicameral parliament, were sworn in Monday despite complaints that the impoverished Caribbean nation's elections in May and June were tainted.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said: "It is our view that Haiti's parliament has been prematurely seated, which calls into question the legitimacy of the new legislature."

Cuba answers U.S. on immigration

HAVANA Cuba yesterday dismissed a U.S. diplomatic protest over cases of Cubans blocked from leaving the island and charged the United States with manipulating immigration issues for political gain during an election year.

Noting that the U.S. protest involved just 117 persons out of nearly 20,000 visas granted annually the Cuban Foreign Ministry in a written statement called the U.S. protests "a publicity maneuver, suspiciously timed to coincide with visits to Miami by presidential candidates" Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush.

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