- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Chechen envoy departs

Chechnya's self-styled foreign minister is due to leave Washington today, after a three-week visit that won friends on Capitol Hill but failed to open any doors at the State Department.

Ilyas Akhmadov, over coffee at The Washington Times yesterday, said he had come on a mission to promote a cease-fire and peace negotiations with Russia, which has been waging a brutal campaign against the separatist republic.

He said he wanted to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to ask her to apply diplomatic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made crushing the Chechen rebels a centerpiece of his administration.

"I was not asking the United States to become an intermediary, just to help us," Mr. Akhmadov said. "I wasn't going to ask for weapons, soldiers or money."

The State Department offered to have lower-ranking diplomats meet with Mr. Akhmadov outside the department to avoid the appearance of implying support or even diplomatic recognition of the Chechen government, which is fighting for independence from the Russian Federation.

He rejected that offer because he said he needed to talk to policy-makers and "could not afford meetings that will not be productive." He already had met with lower-ranking State Department officials at a Washington hotel on an earlier visit.

"The position of the State Department has almost been dictated by the Russian side, which is trying to prevent outside intervention," he said.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Akhmadov found warm support from conservatives like Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, to liberals like Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat.

Mr. Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, sponsored a resolution that the Senate approved last week, calling for Mrs. Albright to meet Mr. Akhmadov and condemning Russia's offensive.

Mr. Akhmadov yesterday met Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

He also received support from former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and Paul Wolfowitz, a foreign affairs adviser to Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. He said he had no luck trying to meet with representatives of Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign.

In rejecting the State Department offer for a meeting outside the building, Mr. Akhmadov said he was following Mr. Haig's advice.

"He told me if you are going to lose, you might as well lose with dignity," Mr. Akhmadov said.

Ex-ambassador dies

Takeshi Yasukawa, 86, Japan's ambassador to the United States in the 1970s, died of liver cancer June 10 in Tokyo.

The diplomat became ambassador here in 1973, a year after he was demoted from his position as deputy foreign minister over a leak of official telegrams.

He served in Washington until 1976. He served as government representative in charge of foreign economic affairs from 1979 to 1981 under Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira.

Racism against Haiti?

Haiti has been dominated by domestic dictators for most of its 200 years of independence, but that did not stop a recent Washington forum from blaming racism and a globalization for its political and economic turmoil.

The panel, sponsored by the TransAfrica policy forum, on Friday also cited the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, along with multinational corporations, for keeping Haiti in poverty.

"Haiti was the first country to break free of colonialism and most people have never forgotten that," said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat. "I think this accounts for the foot dragging [over investment] and outright hostility that surrounds Haiti. I don't think some people will ever get over it."

There was a nod of general agreement with this critique from more than 30 academics, diplomats and social activists, our correspondent Tom Carter reports.

Haiti's first lady, Geri Benoit-Preval asked those attending the forum, including actor Danny Glover, to invest in Haiti. She said job creation is of paramount importance, noting Haiti's tropical location, white sand beaches and Creole culture make it perfect for tourism.

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