- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

Peru aims for recovery

A decade of "dictatorship" in Peru left its democratic institutions destroyed and its economy crushed, according to Peruvian Ambassador Allan Wagner.

Mr. Wagner, in a speech to the Peruvian-North American Business Council, also called for the renewal of a U.S. trade pact for South America to help combat terrorism through economic growth.

He said democracy is now recovering under President Alejandro Toledo, who succeeded Alberto Fujimori, the authoritarian leader forced to resign last year in a corruption scandal.

"Democracy in Peru was recovered by the fierce but peaceful struggle of the Peruvian people and the support of the international community, defeating the authoritarian and corrupt regime that ruled Peru for a decade," he said.

Mr. Fujimori's "10 years of dictatorship" resulted in the "destruction of democratic institutions, widespread corruption and economic recession," he said.

Fifty percent of the population lives in poverty, and 72 percent are either "unemployed or underemployed," he said.

Mr. Toledo aims to strengthen democracy, re-establish the rule of law, eliminate corruption, encourage job growth, promote education and ensure "full access" to health care, Mr. Wagner said.

The ambassador urged Congress to renew the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and expand its tariff-free provisions to more goods.

"The terrible terrorist attack suffered by the United States and the threat that global terrorism represents for the international community makes it necessary now more than ever to combat drug trafficking and its sinister ally, terrorism, through effective programs of trade and cooperation, as a renewed and enhanced ATPA would do," he said.

"Peru," he added, "wishes to forge a profound and since partnership with the United States, based on the democratic values and the political, economic and social goals that our peoples and government share."

Iraq not a target now

Iraq will not be a target in the U.S. war against terrorism unless it is linked to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. ambassador to Japan said yesterday.

Of course, Ambassador Howard Baker added, he was only giving his opinion.

"My guess is that we are not about to do that unless there is clear evidence that Iraq was involved in this act of terrorism," Mr. Baker told a group of academics in Tokyo.

He noted that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Wednesday said President Bush has made no decision on expanding the war beyond Afghanistan.

Romanian corruption

The U.S. ambassador to Romania yesterday warned the country's parliament to crack down on corruption or risk being excluded from the next round of NATO expansion.

"The problem of corruption, if not addressed, can keep Romania and other countries in the region from being invited to join NATO," Ambassador Michael Guest told a parliamentary conference on corruption.

More than 5,000 Romanians, including nearly 240 government employees and 350 business executives, face various corruption charges, the Agence France-Presse reports, citing a government study.

Basketball diplomacy

Lithuanian Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas is preparing for another round of basketball diplomacy, as his embassy team meets a State Department squad Sunday at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia.

Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis plans to take to the court with his Lithuanian teammates.

The game will be the third match between the two countries this year. The friendly rivalry stands at one win each.

A U.S. team of diplomats, politicians and reporters defeated the Lithuanians, 65-57, at a NATO meeting in May in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Lithuania beat a U.S. team, 69-40, when Arturas Paulauskas, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, visited Washington in July.

Mr. Valionis will be in town for a meeting of the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission.

Those wishing to attend the game must call the Lithuanian Embassy at 202/234-5860, extension 29, before 4:30 p.m. today and ask for Jareko Neverovic, who is compiling a list of names and auto license-plate numbers for the Marine base.

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