- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Report angers Pakistan

The Pakistani Embassy has denounced the U.S. State Department's human rights report for failing to recognize Pakistan's human rights reforms.

Pakistan, an ally in the U.S. war against terrorism, also questioned Washington's right to judge human rights conditions in other countries.

The report, released this week, is "factually inaccurate and unwarranted," the embassy said in a statement.

The annual report, which covered 195 countries, noted "some improvements in a few areas" in Pakistan but concluded its "human rights record remained poor."

It cited a lack of democracy on the national level, although the report recognized the government held local elections. The report noted abuse by police, poor prison conditions and limits on religious freedom.

The report also complained of "widespread" discrimination against women and the continuation of "honor killings" of women by their husbands or relatives.

The embassy, however, insisted the government has tried to improve human rights for all parts of its impoverished nation.

Pakistan has adopted a juvenile justice system and established a commission on the status of women. It has implemented police and jail reforms and approved a program to eliminate child labor.

The embassy said the State Department report represented a "gross misstatement of facts."

"The government of Pakistan, therefore, feels constrained to reject the assessment of the report … and the tendency of some state to sit in judgment over others," the embassy said.

"The cause of human rights would be better served if all states, in a spirit of cooperation and understanding, address the problems they face in the promotion and protection of human rights."

Most Saudis released

Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan yesterday announced that most Saudi nationals detained in the United States after September 11 have been released.

"Most of the offenses committed by the Saudis were related to breaking U.S. immigration and traffic laws," he told the official Saudi Press Agency.

About 175 Saudis were detained for questioning after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Saudi Embassy officials told Agence France-Presse. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who carried out the assaults were Saudi citizens.

Eleven Saudis are still being held, while many of those released have returned to Saudi Arabia.

"The embassy has appointed lawyers to defend all the prisoners without exception and is paying all their expenses, including lawyers' fees, bail and the cost of their repatriation," Prince Bandar said.

The ambassador dismissed media reports of Americans mistreating Saudis as "nothing but rumors."

"Saudi-U.S. relations are strong and based on mutual respect and common interests," he said.

Slovenia looks abroad

Slovenia might begin enlisting the support of Slovenians living abroad in its quest to join NATO, according to Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

"If necessary, we will ask our compatriots to support the integration," Mr. Rupel, a former Slovenian ambassador to the United States, said during a debate about NATO this week.

Mr. Rupel stressed the importance of a public campaign because opinion polls show some opposition to NATO membership, the Slovene Press Agency said. It did not report on the details of the polls.

"There is also the emergence of anti-Americanism in the society," the agency quoted him as saying.

He warned of the danger of remaining outside NATO and expecting help from the Western alliance in times of trouble.

"The countries that are avoiding responsibility will not get help … because international relations are based on solidarity," he said.

Panamanian trade

Joaquin Jacome, Panama's minister for commerce and industry, is in Washington to discuss U.S.-Panamanian trade issues.

He will meet today with Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Peter Allgeier, associate U.S. trade representative.

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