- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

Mexico seeks clemency

Oklahoma is at the center of another international dispute over the death penalty, as the Mexican ambassador tries to prevent the execution of a Mexican man next week.

Ambassador Juan Jose Bremer has written Gov. Frank Keating to complain that Mexico was never given the chance to communicate with Gerardo Valdez during his 1989 trial and did not learn of his murder conviction until several years later.

Mr. Bremer said Valdez also was not notified of his right to seek help from the Mexican consulate after his arrest.

"The government of Mexico was unable to provide assistance to him throughout his detention, trial and appeal of his death sentence," Mr. Bremer said in his June 8 letter.

"While the government of Mexico in no way condones Mr. Valdez´s actions, we strongly believe that commutation is warranted in this case."

Mr. Bremer asked Mr. Keating to commute the sentence to life in prison without parole, which was also the recommendation of the state parole board.

Mr. Keating is considering the recommendation, a spokesman told the Associated Press this week.

Valdez is scheduled to die Tuesday.

"We´ll meet with all the appropriate parties and determine the propriety of maintaining the death sentence," said Mr. Keating´s spokesman, Phil Bacharach.

Valdez was convicted of killing a man who made homosexual advances toward him.

Praising Bahrain

A State Department official took the occasion of a diplomatic reception at the Bahrain Embassy to praise the Gulf emirate for taking a step toward democracy.

Although the hereditary monarchy still bans political parties, Emir Hamad bin Isa Kahlifa this year put forth a national charter that spells out basic civil rights for his subjects.

The emir visited President Bush in May, just after the charter was adopted in a referendum. He was the first Arab leader in the Gulf to meet Mr. Bush.

Margaret Scobey, director of the State Department´s office of Arabian peninsular affairs, praised Bahrain for "the expanding of political participation of men and women."

"Bahrain´s enthusiastic embrace of this [charter] is very encouraging," she said. "It is a very exciting time in Bahrain and with this [referendum]. The emir has shown great effort and foresight."

She also said the emir´s "efforts at reconciliation to bring the citizenry together will spell out success."

Bahrain, she added, "shows mutual interest in sharing mutual stability" by providing a base for the U.S. Navy´s 5th Fleet, which has the primary responsibility of protecting the oil shipping lanes in the region.

Italy, big time

The Italian Embassy yesterday was miffed when The Washington Times failed to mention Italy as one of the "big" countries of Europe.

The Times, reporting on President Bush´s trip to Europe, referred to the continent´s "big three countries" — Britain, France and Germany.

"In fact, Italy is always included in any definition of 'big country´ in Europe, be it by population, [gross national product] or any other viable indicator, and there is a widespread referral to the 'big four´ when this kind of terminology is used," said embassy spokesman Alessandro Di Franco.

"This fact is also reflected in the European Union´s institutional arrangements, whereby Italy, Germany, France and Britain have exactly the same voting weight."

He added he was "somehow surprised" that The Times snubbed Italy, big time.

Busy envoy

William Burns was so busy trying to bring peace to the Middle East that he did not have time to return to Washington to be sworn in as an assistant secretary of state.

He made do with the U.S. Embassy in Jordan, where he was ambassador until a consular officer administered the oath June 7.

"He officially relinquished his duties as ambassador to Jordan upon assuming his new duties," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said this week.

Mr. Burns had been doing double duty as ambassador to Jordan and as a special peace envoy to the region since Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appointed him to the second job on May 21.

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