- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2000

Azeri assurances

Azerbaijani Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev has assured a congressional human rights panel that his country will hold free and fair parliamentary elections in November and guarantee the rights of the political opposition.
Mr. Pashayev met last week with the House Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe after scores of demonstrators were arrested and injured on April 29 for protesting against the government of President Heydar Aliev.
Commission Chairman Christopher H. Smith noted that past Azeri elections failed to meet human rights standards.
"The November parliamentary election is critical to the further development of democratization in Azerbaijan, as well as the country's stability," the New Jersey Republican said.
Rep. Joseph R. Pitts welcomed Mr. Pashayev's assurances.
"The experience of the past elections has resulted in deep distrust between opposition parties and the government," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "This election offers a chance to overcome that legacy and consolidate Azerbaijani society."
Maryland's Steny H. Hoyer, the senior Democrat on the commission, expressed his concerns about future opposition protests.
"It is imperative that freedom of assembly be safeguarded while Azerbaijan's authorities and opposition parties work out an arrangement that will avert potential clashes," he told the ambassador.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


• South African President Thabo Mbeki, who holds talks with President Clinton after a White House welcoming ceremony. Vice President Al Gore hosts a luncheon for him at the State Department. He attends a state dinner at the White House tonight.

• Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has canceled a visit in which he had scheduled two days of peace talks with President Clinton and other officials.

• Romanian Prime Minister Mugur Isarescu, who addresses invited guests at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He speaks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spring economic forum tomorrow.

• Yoram Ben-Zeev, deputy director for North American affairs in the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He meets with the editorial board of The Washington Times as he wraps up a Washington visit begun last week.

• Gert Weisskirchen and Uta Zapf, members of the German parliament, who speak at a forum hosted by the Washington office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

• Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson, who leads a delegation to a Canadian-U.S. air-quality forum.


• Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman, who meets with international donors who helped rebuild Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He also meets with Kenneth "Buddy" McKay, President Clinton's special representative for Latin America, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman.

• Herminio Blanco Mendoza, Mexico's secretary of commerce and industrial development, who addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spring forum.

• Louis Hardy, a member of the Canadian Parliament from the Yukon Territory, and Joe Linklater, chief of the Vuntut Gwich'in Indian tribe, who hold a 10 a.m. news conference at the Canadian Embassy to discuss the threats to the Arctic wilderness refuge from plans for oil drilling.


• Bjorn Bjarnason, Iceland's minister of education, science and culture. He speaks to invited guests at the Library of Congress on the Icelandic sagas. An exhibition on Norsemen and their voyages to North America will be on view through July 15 in the Jefferson Building.

• Igor Malashenko, former spokesman to Mikhail Gorbachev and now first deputy director of Media Most, Russia's largest private media company. He holds a 3 p.m. news conference at the National Press Club to discuss the threat to freedom of the press in Russia.


• Pat Cox, a member of the European Parliament and president of the European Liberal Democratic Party, who holds a 9 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club to discuss U.S.-European electronic commerce.

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