- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Advancing Azerbaijan

Two members of the Azerbaijan parliament are in Washington boasting about their country's cooperation in the war against terrorism, even though they are opponents of the current government.

Ali Kerimli, chairman of the Popular Front Party (PFP), and Asim Mollazade, the party's deputy chairman, disagree strongly with the government of President Haydar Aliyev, widely accused of political corruption. But they praise the government's response to the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"Azerbaijan offered immediate assistance to the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism," Mr. Kerimli told Embassy Row yesterday.

The country is providing the United States with access to airports and is prepared to send peacekeepers as part of a Turkish contingent to Afghanistan.

The Azeri government also cooperated with CIA agents in the recent capture of three suspected members of the al Qaeda terrorist network who entered the country from Egypt. They were turned over to Egyptian authorities, Mr. Kerimli said.

Azerbaijan had no qualms about supporting the West in the war on terrorism because it was the victim of both Islamic and Christian terrorists, he said.

Even though it is a Muslim country, Azerbaijan has been targeted by Islamic terrorists because of its diplomatic relations with Israel. Azerbaijan accuses Iran of supporting the militants.

Mr. Kerimli charged that Azerbaijan also suffered from ethnic-Armenian terrorism because of the dispute over the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians hold about 20 percent of Azerbaijan territory.

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia, a Christian nation, of conspiring with Iran to destabilize the country.

"Terrorism has no religion," added Dr. Mollazade, a physician. "Azerbaijan is an ally of Turkey and Israel. That is why we are targeted."

President Bush has recognized Azerbaijan's cooperation by waiving sanctions applied in 1993 because of the country's poor record on human rights and democracy. The sanctions were implemented in response to a coup that ousted PFP leader Abulfez Elchibey, the first democratically elected president, and installed Mr. Aliyev, a former communist.

In meetings this week with State Department and administration officials, Mr. Kerimli said his party's goal is to improve Azerbaijan's record on democracy and human rights.

"We stress the importance of democratization. It's the key to stability," he said. "We need to bring Azerbaijan up to the standards of the Western community."


Egypt sends envoy

A top aide to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due in Washington soon to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Mubarak decided to send Osama Baz to Washington after he talked by telephone on Monday to President Bush, who expressed his disappointment with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's failure to fight terrorism, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday from Cairo.

The French news service quoted a source close to Mr. Mubarak, who said Mr. Baz would tell Bush administration officials about talks he had Sunday with Danny Ayalon, a foreign-policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mr. Baz will discuss "certain Israeli ideas about how to emerge from the crisis," AFP quoted a source as saying.

The dispatch did not say when the Egyptian envoy was due here.


Lobbyist to Luxembourg

President Bush has selected one of his top campaign fund-raisers to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg.

Peter Terpeluk, a Washington lobbyist, was one of Mr. Bush's Pioneers, an elite group of campaign supporters.

Mr. Terpeluk is managing director of the American Continental Group, which specializes in government relations. He also served as Mid-Atlantic and national administrator at the Small Business Administration in the Reagan administration.

"His commitment to community service, experience in economic development and understanding of international relations will make him a very effective ambassador to Luxembourg," Mr. Bush said in a statement.

His nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

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