- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

Return to Hungary

The Hungarian ambassador is returning to a country where the political landscape is bleak for an anti-communist, free-market economist.

When Ambassador Geza Jeszenszky came to Washington in 1998, Hungary had rejected socialism. It would join NATO the next year, firmly anchoring the Central European nation in the West.

But something went wrong for the center-right coalition in the April elections. It was defeated by former communists of the Hungarian Socialist Party.

Instead of his ally Viktor Orban, the new prime minister is Peter Medgyessy, a 60-year-old former communist apparatchik.

Mr. Jeszenszky, a former foreign minister and member of parliament, is too much of a diplomat to criticize the new government while in the United States.

In a farewell letter to his colleagues here, there is only the slightest hint of what friends say is his private disappointment over the political forturnes in Hungary.

"I belong to a political tradition in Hungary that always endeavored to be close to the Anglo-American school and values," he said, noting his admiration for Hungary's brief post war democratic government and his fierce opposition to communism.

Mr. Jeszenszky took part in the 1956 anti-communist uprising and formed the Hungarian Democratic Forum in 1988, the year before communism fell in Hungary.

"For every diplomat, the time comes to take leave of the many friends he or she has made, to leave behind so many places one came to like, but the unforgettable memories will remain with us," he wrote in his letter.

"My main ambition was to make Hungar a valuable ally better known to the American people."

He noted that he quoted the ancient Roman historian, Sallustius, when he presented his diplomatic credentials to former President Clinton.

"'Truly not armies nor treasures are the safeguards of a kingdom, but friends,'" he said. "We Hungarians have a small army and modest wealth but a great friend, the United States."

Caution in Indonesia

Pressuring Indonesia into rounding up terrorist suspects without strong evidence could backfire and make heroes out of militants, the International Crisis Group warns in a new report.

Sidney Jones, the group's director in Indonesia, is worried about a repeat of the 1970s when the Suharto dictatorship gave birth to the Ngruki terrorist network, which today has suspected links to al Qaeda.

"The problem is that the Ngruki network is far wider than the handful of people who have been accused of ties to al Qaeda and includes individuals with well-established political legitimacy for having defied the Suharto government," Mr. Jones said in the report.

"Repression gave birth to the net, and carrying out arrests without sufficient evidence could produce a new generation of radicals."

The network, which takes its name from the village of Ngruki, aims to create a Muslim nation based on strict Islamic laws.

"Indonesia has a highly politicized national intelligence agency and law enforcement institutions," the report said. "Its courts are weak and corrupt. International pressure could lead once again to arbitrary arrests and detentions that characterized the Suharto years."

"Indonesia is not a terrorist hotbed," the report added. "In the world's largest Muslim country, proponents of radical Islam remain a small minority, and most of those are devout practitioners who would never dream of using violence."

Stability for Singapore

Singapore sees the U.S. military presence in Asia as a key foundation of its stability, according to Singapore Ambassador Chan Heng Chee.

"We believe the U.S. plays a unique role in the security of East Asia," she said at a reception to honor Singapore Armed Forces Day. "The U.S. military presence in the region is an important and stabilizing force. In particular, Singapore has facilitated the U.S. military presence through the provision of access to military and naval facilities."

The two countries in June conducted 11 days of naval exercises in the South China Sea.

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