- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Mission to Togo;

Togo Ambassador Pascal Bodjona has just returned from a mission to his country with an American delegation that bestowed a human rights award on Togo President Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Mr. Bodjona led the delegation to the village of Kara to participate in a ceremony marking the 26th anniversary of Mr. Eyadema's survival of a plane crash, which helped create a myth of invincibility that has helped him maintain political office for 33 years.

Mr. Eyadema, whose human rights record has been assailed by the State Department and Amnesty International, was rewarded for his efforts to help negotiate peace deals in the West African countries of Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone.

Nicholas Kittrie, a law professor at American University and head of the D.C.-based Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Justice and Peace, presented Mr. Eyadema with the institute's annual Justice and Peace Award.

Mr. Kittrie recognized Mr. Eyadema for his efforts "to preserve national unity in the midst of perennial conflict in the region."

The delegation included Rep. Earl F. Hilliard, Alabama Democrat, Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, Ala., head of the World Mayors' Conference, and Jack Davison, a retired diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Niger.

Mr. Bodjona was recently dispatched to London to meet with Amnesty International, after the human rights organization released a scathing report on civil rights in Togo.

The State Department has called Mr. Eyadema, who seized power in a military coup in 1967, an authoritarian ruler who has suppressed political opposition. Mr. Eyadema has said he intends to move toward a genuine democracy.

Edward von Kloberg, a D.C. lobbyist who organized the trip, said Mr. Eyadema is trying to negotiate a way to step down from power and avoid prosecution for any abuses created during his rule.

"President Eyadema wants to begin attempts to negotiate a step-down whereby he will be allowed freedom of movement and financial security with immunity from prosecution," said Mr. von Kloberg, president of the Washington World Group.

Diplomatic movement

Diplomats yesterday continued to buzz around the Middle East in an attempt to find some way to repair the breakdown in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Daniel Kurtzer met in Cairo with Foreign Minister Amr Mussa to discuss what an Egyptian spokesman called "joint efforts to contain the deteriorating situation" that has followed Israeli air strikes in Lebanon in retaliation for guerrilla attacks on its bases in southern Lebanon.

Officials said Mr. Kurtzer and Mr. Mussa reviewed developments on "all tracks of the peace process," from Israeli-Palestinian issues to Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese problems.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, Edward Djerejian, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Middle East issues, met Prime Minister Salim Hoss.

"We discussed the Arab-Israeli peace process and how it affects Lebanon," said Mr. Djerejian, who is on a private visit.

"I think there is a very strong consensus that it is absolutely necessary for the Israeli-Syrian and the Israeli-Lebanese negotiations to restart, to move forward on a very prompt and timely basis," he told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Hoss.

"Lebanon's future will be a consequence of the success or failure of these negotiations in terms of Arab-Israeli peace," he said.

"With the requisite political will and courage of the leaders of Israel, Syria, Lebanon and the U.S.A., I believe that [the Lebanese and Syrian] tracks can move forward on a very timely basis and achieve success," he said.

Mr. Djerejian, also a former ambassador to Israel and Syria, met Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on Sunday.

In another diplomatic development, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said Syrian President Hafez Assad is still counting on the United States to broker a deal between Syria and Israel.

Mr. Assad "has a very positive view on the U.S. position, and I consider that to be very significant and very encouraging," Mr. D'Alema told reporters after meeting the Syrian leader in Damascus.

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