- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Perhaps President Bush thought that on the last working day before Christmas, no one would be watching the White House. He was wrong. The welcome he gave last Friday for Kazakhstan's corrupt dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was appalling.

Not only has Mr. Nazarbayev shown no tangible evidence of how he will support the war on terrorism, but he is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice for his role in money-laundering and bribery. He has repressed his country's media and trafficked arms to rogue states. He has allowed increasing human rights abuses in Kazakhstan. Still, Mr. Nazarbayev went away Friday boasting of a new strategic partnership on the Caspian Sea region and wider economic cooperation, assured of U.S. support for his country's accession to the World Trade Organization.

By welcoming Mr. Nazarbayev to the White House, Mr. Bush sent a message that will hurt the people of Kazakhstan. He turned a blind eye to the violation of democratic values for the sake of oil.

Let's start with Mr. Nazarbayev's corruption. James Griffen, who acted as mediator between Mobil Oil and two other oil companies and Mr. Nazarbayev and his government, set up a bribery chain in the 1990s, according to testimony given on Dec. 4 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee's subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. The Swiss Federal Department of Justice gave evidence of the bribery chain to the U.S. Department of Justice Sept. 14. Swiss supreme court documents confirm that the corruption investigation focuses on payments from American oil companies given to Mr. Nazarbayev and other senior officials during the 1990s via Swiss bank accounts, Agence France Press reported. And that's not all. Choi Soon Young, a wealthy businessman from South Korea, testified last month that he ordered a subordinate to give Mr. Nazarbayev $10 million in bribes in 1996 to promote business there, the Los Angeles Times reported.

If the personal corruption of Mr. Nazarbayev was not enough to prevent Mr. Bush from embracing the Kazakh leader, reports of his arms-trafficking to rogue states should have been. These include sales of the Russian-made S-300 air defense system and heavy tanks. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen testified that some of these may have gone to the Sudan. In addition, Kazakhstan sold 40 MiG fighters to North Korea last year.

Finally, on the eve of Mr. Nazarbayev's visit, Rep. Chris Smith addressed for the Congressional Record the sad state of human rights in Kazakhstan. Most Kazakh media outlets are controlled by the president and his family and friends, and those that offer any criticism may be subject to harassment or having their offices raided. A new draft of a religion law would cause meetings of a religious nature, in which individuals share their beliefs with others, to be punishable by two years of "corrective labor," even if they meet in private homes and even if they have registered with the government.

This is the man Mr. Bush welcomed to the White House. What an ally to have in the fight against terrorism.

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