- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Cuba denounces Reich

The Cuban government is apparently apoplectic over President Bush's appointment of Otto Reich as the senior State Department official on Latin America. In Granma, the Cuban state newspaper, and on government-controlled television, Mr. Reich, who was sworn in last week, has been blasted in decidedly nondiplomatic language as being a "terrorist" and the "godfather of terrorism" in Cuba.

The State Department responded to the charges.

"The attacks are beneath contempt," Charles Barclay, spokesman for the bureau of Latin American affairs, told our correspondent Tom Carter.

Mr. Barclay said that Mr. Reich has led a distinguished career promoting democracy and fighting the terrorism sponsored by dictatorial regimes such as Cuba.

"The accusations are particularly galling given the Castro regime's long history of supporting terrorist groups around the world," he added.

Mr. Reich was born in Cuba but came to the United States with his parents after Fidel Castro's communist revolution.

Pakistani condolences

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar visited the U.S. Embassy to extend his government's condolences for the killing of two Americans in a terrorist attack on a church Sunday near the embassy.

Mr. Sattar asked U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin to extend his sympathy to Milton V. Green, a U.S. diplomat whose wife, Barbara, and 17-year-old daughter, Kristen, died in the attack in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Mr. Green was seriously wounded.

Altogether, five persons were killed and at least 46 wounded.

Meanwhile, Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, cut short a trip to fly to Islamabad to escort the bodies of the two Americans back home.

September 11 concert

German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger marked the six-month commemoration of the terrorist attacks on the United States by distributing a compact disc recording of a special concert held in Berlin five days after the September 11 tragedy.

"On behalf of the German people, the artists conveyed the message that America's shock, grief and sorrow was shared by all Germans," Mr. Ischinger said in a letter accompanying the CD.

The recording of selections from Mahler, Schubert and Wagner featured the first joint appearance of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Berlin Opera and the Staatskapelle Orchestra of Berlin.

"The concert, titled 'In Friendship and Solidarity,' was a moving testimony of Germany's support for America," Mr. Ischinger said. "There were, however, many other gestures of solidarity, such as the successful German-American Solidarity Fund and the donations given to U.S.-based charities by individuals and corporations."

Germans collected nearly $43 million for the families of the victims, the ambassador said.

Visegrad divisions

Historic grievances can't be allowed to undermine the political cohesion of Central Europe, according to the man shepherding Slovakia's bid to join the European Union and NATO.

Jan Figel, state secretary of the Slovak Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporter David R. Sands during a Washington visit last week that the resurfacing of disputes dating back to before World War II had weakened the diplomatic effectiveness of the so-called "Visegrad Group" Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all of whom want to join the EU in 2004.

The Czech Republic has been engaged in a dispute with its neighbors over the treatment of ethnic German and Hungarian residents expelled after World War II. Hungary has been feuding with its neighbors about a new law to extend special privileges to ethnic Hungarian citizens in those countries.

"The well-functioning cooperation we've had in the Visegrad Group can be destroyed if we all pursue our own historical agendas," Mr. Figel warned. "A common future is the best answer we have to dealing with a divisive past."

Mr. Figel said he remained optimistic that Slovakia can join its Visegrad partners in NATO this year and that the group will be able to regain its effectiveness following Hungary's parliamentary elections next month.

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