- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

Killings in Cambodia
The U.S. ambassador to Cambodia yesterday denounced the country's Communist government for claiming that no political opponent was killed in the recent election campaign.
"Some of the killings since the onset of the election campaign period were absolutely politically motivated, and that cannot be denied," Ambassador Curt Wiedemann told reporters in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
At least 20 persons were killed in the campaign that ended Sunday, with the ruling Cambodian People's Party winning 1,600 local offices out of 1,621 on the ballots throughout the country.
Mr. Wiedemann said 10 of the deaths were confirmed political killings, while five remain suspect.
The remaining five were not political, he said, citing reports by the United Nations, the U.S. Embassy and international and local human rights groups.
"It's appallingly irresponsible on the part of the government insulting almost and dismissive of the international community's concerns expressed to the government time after time after time, when it is unwilling to accept the fact that there were some political killings," Mr. Wiedemann told the Associated Press.
He told Reuters news agency that he was "very disturbed" that Prime Minister Hun Sen denied the murders were political. The Interior Ministry called the reports of political murder "baseless accusations and propaganda."
"I am very disturbed. I do not find it credible," Mr. Wiedemann said of the government's reaction. "It certainly does no service to pre-empt or deter this from happening in the future."

Moldovan envoy fired
The Moldovan ambassador was fired this week, after accusations that he promoted steel exports to the United States from a separatist region of the former Soviet republic.
Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev recalled Ambassador Ceslav Ciobanu and also dismissed Economy Minister Andrei Cucu and his deputy, Marian Lupu, according to reports from Moldova.
An anti-corruption investigation in Moldova accused them of lobbying U.S. authorities to help a steel plant from the breakaway Trans-Dniester region avoid new American tariffs. The news reports did not say whether the fired officials received any financial benefits from the lobbying effort.
The plant exported $108 million worth of steel bars to the United States and other countries last year. That accounted for more than half of Trans-Dniester's total budget.
Now the firm faces tariffs of more than 230 percent.
The region declared independence from Moldova in 1992, provoking a five-month civil war that claimed 1,500 lives before Russia brokered a truce. Separatist authorities were left in charge of Trans-Dniester, but they have no international recognition.
The ambassador, who has been in Washington for three years, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

'Small, strong ally'
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga this week declared her Baltic nation a strong ally of the United States, as she met Washington officials to promote Latvia's case for admission to NATO.
"We are a small nation but a strong ally," she told reporters after meeting Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
Mr. Cheney praised Latvia's achievements and told Mrs. Vike-Freiberga that the Bush administration wants to help her nation build strong democratic institutions and combat corruption, the Baltic News Service reported.
Mr. Cheney assured her that Russia will have no veto over NATO decisions as Moscow develops closer relations with the Western alliance.
"No country outside NATO will have the right to veto NATO decisions," he said. "The U.S. recognizes the right of any candidate to be admitted to the organization on the basis of its achievements."
Mrs. Vike-Freiberga received more encouraging news from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
He offered her "full U.S. support for Latvia's ongoing efforts to integrate fully into Euro-Atlantic institutions," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Tuesday.
"[Mr. Powell] also praised her efforts in the areas of integrating minority groups into Latvian society, fostering economic reform and integrity and transparency in government and encouraging reconciliation with history," Mr. Reeker added.

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