- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Message from Guyana

Guyana may still have too much poverty, but the economic trend is moving upward, says Guyanese Ambassador Odeen Ishmael.

The small country on the north coast of South America suffered a slowdown in economic growth in 1998 through 1999, but figures for 2000 should show a reversal of the slump.

"We are optimistic that economic conditions will improve in the coming year," Mr. Ishmael wrote in a year-end review in the Guyanese Embassy newsletter.

Despite the economic troubles, Guyana has a healthier agricultural sector than many countries in the region, he said.

The 1997 election of Janet Jagan, the American-born widow of Guyanese democracy leader Cheddi Jagan, gave the country political respect.

"The democratic process continues to be consolidated and freedoms of expression and of association are norms that are now firmly entrenched," he said.

Guyana is preparing for elections in March under a reformed constitution.

Staying in Vietnam

Vietnam is praising President-elect George W. Bush for deciding to leave Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson in his post as Washington's first envoy to the communist nation.

"In recent years he has made some positive contributions to the normalization between our two nations, including the signing of the bilateral trade agreement" in July, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh told reporters this week.

"With the experience and the knowledge of Ambassador Peterson, we hope that his staying in Vietnam will be positive to furthering bilateral relations, including implementation of the [trade agreement]."

The pact must still be ratified by Congress, but Vietnam is already implementing many of the treaty's provisions. Vietnam has agreed to open its state-controlled markets in return for the removal of punitive tariffs on exports to the United States.

Mr. Peterson, nominated by President Clinton in 1996, is a former Democratic congressman from Florida who spent 6* years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. His work to normalize relations between the two former enemies was capped with Mr. Clinton's visit to Vietnam two months ago.

When he was nominated, Vietnam called him a "serious person" who made "many positive contributions to the normalization process of U.S.-Vietnam relations" during his three terms in the House of Representatives.

Envoy to India

The incoming Bush administration is considering a veteran diplomat and two former members of Congress as possible nominees to be ambassador to India.

India's Asian Age newspaper has identified James Lilley, a former ambassador to China, former Sen. Larry Pressler, South Dakota Republican, and Bill McCollum, Florida Republican, as the leading candidates for the position.

Mr. Pressler may be the most interesting candidate because of his long association with U.S.-South Asian affairs.

He is the author of the so-called Pressler Amendment, which required the cutoff of U.S. military aid to India's regional rival Pakistan in 1990 when the former Bush administration could no longer determine whether Pakistan was trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ironically, India detonated nuclear tests two years ago, forcing Pakistan to respond with its own tests. The tit-for-tat tests proved both nations had embarked on nuclear weapons programs, making South Asia an even more volatile region.

Mr. Pressler's "obsession has been to serve as Washington's envoy to New Delhi," Asian Age said. "He also has the overwhelming support of the Indian-American community … [and] has maintained close contact with [Indian] leaders."

Mr. Lilley "appears to be the favorite with the bureaucracy at the State Department with at least one official saying [he] would bring 'fresh thinking' and 'great value' to the job."

Mr. McCollum, who was defeated for re-election in November, is a former chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India.

He "understands the problem [Islamic] terrorism has created in India," Asian Age reported.

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