- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Vershbow's exact words
The U.S. Embassy in Russia wants to set the record straight: Ambassador Alexander Vershbow never called Chechen rebels "freedom fighters."
The embassy press office, reacting to the Jan. 1 Embassy Row column, e-mailed an interview Mr. Vershbow gave Dec. 28 on the Echo Moscow radio station.
Embassy Row, however, never said Mr. Vershbow called the rebels freedom fighters. The New Year's Day column reported on Russian reaction to Mr. Vershbow's interview, and quoted a top Russian official using the phrase.
Vladimir Rushailo, Russia's national security adviser, told Moscow's Interfax news agency that he was upset by what he saw as a double standard applied by the United States toward Russia's war with separatist rebels in Chechnya. Russia has accused the rebels of terrorism, while the United States is urging political dialogue to end the fighting.
"Terrorists, wherever they are located, remain terrorists and must be viewed as such and not as freedom fighters," Mr. Rushailo said.
In the e-mail, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said, "It's not clear whether Rushailo was obliquely referring to our ambassador's Dec. 28 interview since he did not mention Ambassador Vershbow by name."
However, she added, "Just for the record, Ambassador Vershbow did not make any reference to 'freedom fighters' in his interview."
Mr. Vershbow drew a distinction between "internal separatism" and "international terrorism." He also noted the presence of "foreign terrorists" among the Muslim rebels. Mr. Vershbow said the United States urges dialogue but recognizes the conflict as an internal Russian issue.
"We don't say that Russia needs to have a dialogue with separatists but rather with the legitimate representatives of the Chechen population," he said.
"But clearly those who have chosen to take up arms against Russian authority can't simply be destroyed by military means. That's proving to be a blind alley.
"But it's for Russia to find the right interlocutors, and we're not insisting on being mediators because it is an internal matter. It's up to Russia to find a political path out of this conflict."

Terrorist war jitters
The Cato Institute is worried that President Bush is expanding the war on terrorism too far and might provoke attacks on the United States from groups that do not now target Americans.
As far as the libertarian think tank is concerned, the United States should limit its war to crushing Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network to protect the United States.
"It is vital to show that the heinous attack on U.S. soil will not go unanswered and to eliminate the threat from the al Qaeda [terrorist network] and affiliated groups, but it is foolhardy to draw a bigger bull's-eye on the United States by taking up the fight against numerous other terrorist groups on behalf of other nations," Ivan Eland, Cato's director of defense studies, writes in a new paper.
Mr. Eland was alarmed when the Bush administration in November announced financial sanctions on all 22 organizations on the State Department's terrorist list.
"Terrorist attacks against U.S. targets would likely increase [in a wider war]," Mr. Eland wrote. "The United States would acquire enemies that we now do not have."

Diplomatic traffic
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Wednesday
Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani, who holds a 5 p.m. news conference at the Indian Embassy.
Thursday
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who meets President Bush to discuss issues related to NATO, the European Union, Cyprus, the Balkans, terrorism and the Olympics.
Kamoludin Abdullaev of Tajikistan's State University, who participates in a workshop on Central Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
cNikolay Platonov of the Russian Trade Federation, who joins a discussion on business and culture hosted by the Washington International Trade Association and the Meridian International Center.
Friday
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who meets President Bush to discuss terrorism, NATO and other European issues.

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