- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

Liberian anger

Liberian Ambassador William V.S. Bull is disappointed by the U.S. decision to impose visa sanctions on his country over charges that Liberia is dealing in the illegal diamond trade and supporting rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

"It is most unfair," Mr. Bull told Embassy Row yesterday.

He questioned why the State Department took the action this week while the United Nations is sending a delegation to Liberia to investigate the charges.

"It is unfortunate that the United States took a unilateral action without waiting for the U.N. Security Council to act," he said.

Mr. Bull said the U.N. delegation is due in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, this weekend.

The visa sanctions will prevent Liberian government officials and family members from visiting the United States.

The State Department also warned U.S. citizens in Liberia to beware of any anti-American reactions to the visa decision.

It also ordered non-emergency staff at the U.S. Embassy to leave the West African nation.

The United States and Britain have accused Liberian President Charles Taylor of promoting and personally profiting from an arms-for-diamonds trade.

Mr. Taylor has denied that he is involved in diamond smuggling or fomenting civil war in Sierra Leone.

The ambassador said Mr. Taylor even sent President Clinton a letter in August that outlined steps Liberia would take to stem diamond smuggling.

"We have tried to address the concerns of the United States, but Mr. Clinton has not responded," Mr. Bull said.

Mr. Bull said the U.S. action "came as a surprise," especially because Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering had visited Liberia recently and expressed no warnings about a potential move by Washington.

"We had no reason to expect the U.S. would take this action," he said.

"We have denied the accusations and asked them to provide evidence. You are supposed to be presumed innocent, but in this case we are presumed guilty."

Honoring Marshall

Greece and Greek-Americans yesterday honored George C. Marshall with a statue outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens to commemorate the U.S. soldier-statesman who helped save Greece from communist aggression after World War II.

"The Marshall statue will be a fitting monument to the strength and endurance of the U.S.-Greece relationship," said Johnny N. Economy, supreme president of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA).

The Greek-American organization raised $110,000 to erect the 12-foot bronze statue by renowned Greek sculptor, Theodoros Papayiannis.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, first proposed that a monument be erected to Marshall.

"The absence of any monument to George C. Marshall in Greece is felt by many in the Greek-American community who believe that the American general and statesman best represents the historical commitment of the United States to Greece's growth and prosperity," Mr. Burns said in a statement.

Mr. Economy added, "Marshall's generous $706 million aid program helped bring economic and social recovery and prosperity to Greece after World War II and the Greek Civil War."

Louis Zakas, who chaired the AHEPA Marshall Statue Project, said, "The AHEPA family is proud to meet its commitment to Ambassador Burns for the building of the Marshall statue."

Russia's complaints

A former Russian ambassador to the United States yesterday said he suspects the United States is playing politics over the arrest of an American businessman on espionage charges.

Vladimir Lukin complained that Republicans in the House adopted a resolution aimed at cutting off aid to Russia unless it released Edmund Pope, who suffers from a rare form of cancer and whose health has been deteriorating since he was arrested in Moscow earlier this year.

"The Republican-dominated Congress just threw this at the Democrats, who cannot afford to appear less patriotic than their competitors ahead of the presidential elections," Mr. Lukin told Russia's NTV television network.

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