- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

Nazis in Australia?

The Australian Embassy is defending Australia's pursuit of suspected Nazi war criminals, but refuses to participate in a forum tonight that will question the country's investigations.

Margaret McDonald, the deputy chief of mission, declined an invitation to join the forum at the Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase. The panel will include the producer of a segment on ABC's "20/20" newsmagazine that reported Australia is failing to prosecute suspected Nazis.

Murray White, a spokesman for the synagogue, said the forum hopes to "shine a spotlight on the presence of these individuals in Australia and on what the Australian government is and is not doing about them."

The ABC report broadcast in December followed up on stories first reported in Australia and in the Jerusalem Post of Israel.

The reports faulted Australia for investigating hundreds of suspects, but bringing charges against only three. One case was dismissed. Another defendant was acquitted by a jury, and the prosecution dropped charges against the third defendant after he suffered a heart attack.

Eli Rosenbaum, described as "the top U.S. Justice Department Nazi hunter," told "20/20" that suspected Nazi war criminals knew they were "home free" once they got to Australia.

Mrs. McDonald, in a letter to the Chevy Chase synagogue, said Australia had done all it could to pursue suspected Nazis. She said a Special Investigations Unit investigated 800 cases between 1987 and 1992, when it was shut down. War-crimes cases are now referred to the Australian Federal Police, she said.

"I can assure you there is no unwillingness on the part of the Australian government to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes," Mrs. McDonald wrote. "In fact, Australia was among the first countries to take strong action against war criminals in response to allegations in the 1980s that war criminals were living in apparently safe havens around the world."

However, she added, the passage of time hindered Australia's investigations.

"It was always known that after a lapse of time of up to 50 years, there would be difficulties in achieving successful prosecutions," Mrs. McDonald said.

"However, the government took all possible measures to minimize the difficulties facing both prosecution and defense due to the lapse of time, while retaining all the normal protections provided by our criminal justice system for defendants in criminal trials."

The forum at the synagogue, at 8402 Freyman Drive, begins at 8:30 p.m.

Diplomatic politics

James Rosapepe, the U.S. ambassador to Romania, complained yesterday that his image is being used in election campaigns by Romania's political opposition.

The Party of Social Democracy promised to withdraw a newspaper ad and a television spot featuring Mr. Rosapape with two of its candidates in mayoral elections, after the embassy filed a formal protest.

"The obvious intent of the advertisements is to leave the readers of the newspaper, the television viewers and voters with the impression that the ambassador supports the candidacy of the two men," the embassy said in a statement.

"We wish to make clear that the United States does not involve itself in the internal political affairs of Romania. Neither the ambassador, nor any embassy official, endorses candidates in elections. It is up to the Romanian people to decide who will represent them.

"We have asked the [party] to cease using the ambassador's image for any electoral purpose."

An embassy official told Agence France-Presse that the party agreed yesterday to stop using the ambassador's image.

Lithuania thanks Lott

The Lithuanian Embassy is highlighting Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's support of Lithuania's efforts to join NATO and the European Union.

The embassy released portions of a letter the Mississippi Republican wrote recently to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas in which he praises the Baltic nation's commitment to "democracy, human rights and a free-market economy."

"I feel hope that Lithuania is now on the right track and will serve as an important partner, as well as eventually indispensable member of NATO and the European Union," Mr. Lott wrote.

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