- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2000

Americas' century

The United States is urging its southern neighbors to strengthen human rights, the rule of law and free markets and to guard against the "subtle" and "more dangerous" threats to democracy in the post-Cold War era.
"The protection of fundamental human rights is at the heart of democratic societies. I will make promotion of human rights my top priority," said Luis J. Lauredo in his maiden speech this week as U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.
Mr. Lauredo noted that 34 member nations of the OAS from Canada to South America have democratic governments and lamented the lone exception, Cuba, which was suspended for human rights violations in 1962.
"Sadly there is a missing chair in this council," Mr. Lauredo said.
"Our greatest legacy will be realized the day all countries of this hemisphere have democratically elected government and arbitrary dictatorships are once and for all a thing of the past."
Mr. Lauredo is a Cuban refugee whose parents immigrated to the United States when he was a teen-ager.
(Concerning Elian Gonzalez, Mr. Lauredo in a press conference last week, repeated the Clinton administration position that the 6-year-old boy should be returned to his father in Cuba.)
"We must be proactive in the defense of democratic institutions, freedom of the press and the supremacy of the individual and his rights over the power of the state," Mr. Lauredo said.
"While democracy is strong and vibrant in the Americas, many of the institutions of democracy are under extraordinary stress," he said, adding that the gap between rich and poor "is a primary cause of those strains."
"Strong democratic institutions are the best hope for assuring the equitable distribution of economic growth," he said.
However, Mr. Lauredo added, the "attacks on democracy and human rights today are more subtle than ever, and therefore, more dangerous."
"We must also recognize that democracy cannot endure without an equitable system of justice," he said.
"A truly independent judiciary is the indispensable bedrock of democracy and the protection of individual human rights."
Achieving those democratic goals, he said, "will, without a doubt, make this new century the century of the Americas."

Secret arms talks

U.S. and Russian officials are holding secret talks on arms-control issues in Geneva, according to diplomatic sources.
The meetings between U.S. arms-control adviser John Holum and Russian arms expert Yuri Kapralov are dealing with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and a future START III, the sources told the Reuters news agency.
The talks "are being held under a shroud of secrecy," Reuters said. Mr. Holum and Mr. Kapralov are due to finish their meetings today.
Russia has strongly objected to U.S. efforts to deploy an anti-missile defense, claiming it is a violation of the ABM Treaty between the former Soviet Union and the United States.
The U.S. Senate has ratified the START II treaty, which the Russian parliament is expected to consider in March.

Bahrain's prince visits

The crown prince of Bahrain is wrapping up a Washington visit Friday with a meeting with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.
Prince Salman bin Hamad Khalifa, who is also commander of Bahrain's armed forces, met President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger earlier this week.
"Bahrain is a close friend of the United States, with whom we want to consult on a regular basis," said State Department spokesman James P. Rubin.
"It is a key friend and partner in the [Persian] Gulf."

Canada on environment

Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. Friday at the National Press Club to discuss his three-day visit to Washington.
Mr. Anderson held talks with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner.
He also met with Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

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