- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Bulgarian abstention

Call it good politics or just good luck, but Bulgaria shrewdly used its turn as a rotating member of the U.N. Security Council to score valuable points with the United States in a NATO enlargement year.

In the sea of hands raised to support extending the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina late last month, only two were missing. The United States voted against it to protest the council's refusal to grant immunity to U.S. peacekeepers from the new International Criminal Court (ICC). Bulgaria conspicuously abstained.

"That vote didn't go unnoticed," a State Department official told our correspondent Nicholas Kralev when they coincidentally crossed paths on their way to a summit of the NATO hopefuls in Riga, the Latvian capital, earlier this month.

"It certainly doesn't hurt," the official added, implying that Washington will remember the gesture as it gets closer to making up its mind which of the nine applicant nations to support at the NATO summit in November in the Czech capital, Prague.

As many as seven former Soviet bloc nations Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are expected to be offered membership, five years after the first wave of NATO's post-Cold War enlargement. Albania and Macedonia are considered long shots.

The United States has not yet made an official decision on which countries to support, but President Bush has said he favors "more rather than less." Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials have called for a "robust" expansion.

The United States, which strongly opposes the ICC, and the other Security Council members reached a compromise on Friday that would give U.S. troops immunity from the court's jurisdiction for one year.

Philippine corruption

Government corruption is scaring off foreign investment in the Philippines, but talking about it appears to be a more serious offense to some sensitive politicians.

U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone sent two leading members of the Philippine Congress into a fit with his remarks this week to foreign reporters in the capital, Manila.

"The number one barrier is corruption, not just regarding the courts but also officials outside the judiciary," he said. "Foreign investors have complained about that to me and to other ambassadors here that we have a real problem."

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was not upset by his comments.

"Every time we talk, he mentions the problem to me," she said in a Philippine radio interview.

Several members of the House of Representatives praised his remarks. One congressman called it "a wake-up call." But the powerful chairmen of the House and Senate foreign affairs committees demanded he be diplomatically disciplined.

Jose Apolinario Lozada Jr., who chairs the House panel, called the ambassador's remarks a breach of protocol.

"He is pulling his host country down instead of helping it," he was quoted as saying in one Philippine newspaper.

Blas Ople, chairman of the Senate committee, demanded Mr. Ricciardone apologize.

"His comments exceeded the bounds of diplomatic courtesy and possibly abused the hospitality of the Philippines," Mr. Ople told Philippine reporters.

"Such undiplomatic behavior can be a ground for declaring a foreign envoy persona non grata to the Philippine government. He owes us an apology for his statement of misplaced zeal and interference in our internal affairs."

Sen. Ralph Recto told the Philippine Star that Mr. Ricciardone should be more concerned about corruption in the United States.

"We question his mandate and right to lecture us on corruption when Enron, WorldCom and Xerox are all under water for doctoring their books," Mr. Recto said. "These scandals were all U.S.-made."

Aid to Ethiopia

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Tibor P. Nagy has signed agreements to provide $17.2 million in aid to the impoverished nation on the Horn of Africa.

Among its targeted programs, the agreement will provide $3.1 million for agricultural and other food aid, $4.6 million for health and $7.6 million for education.

The U.S. Agency for International Development announced an additional allocation of $9.3 million for health programs.

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