- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Ukraine's complaints

The Ukrainian ambassador yesterday conceded he is perplexed by U.S. suspicions that his government sold a sophisticated radar system to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Ambassador Kostyantyn Gryshchenko told editors and reporters at The Washington Times that Washington's position has plunged U.S.-Ukrainian relations to the lowest point since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly denied charges that President Leonid Kuchma authorized the sale of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. The government has also dismissed a secret tape recording, in which Mr. Kuchma reportedly approved the sale, as a fake. The State Department, however, believes the tape is authentic.

"At the very least, it is doctored," Mr. Gryshchenko said of the tape, recorded by Mr. Kuchma's former bodyguard, who is now living in the United States.

The ambassador complained that the United States is trying to make Ukraine do the impossible by proving it did not sell the system to Iraq.

"We can't prove a negative. They cannot prove a negative," he said.

Mr. Gryshchenko said all of Ukraine's sales of the radar system are accounted for. He noted that if Ukraine had, indeed, sold the Iraqis such a system, they would have used it by now against U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq.

The ambassador also said he has heard of no U.S. surveillance photographs that would have detected the system.

"The who story is like a John Le Carre spy novel, but this is not fiction," Mr. Gryshchenko said.

The ambassador said Ukraine feels it is being isolated by the United States, which should consider Ukraine an ally.

The United States announced Sept. 24 it had suspended programs worth $54 million in annual aid to Ukraine as part of a wider policy-review plan concerning the country.

The U.S. aid suspension, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, "doesn't affect the bulk of our assistance to Ukraine" but applies only to funding going directly to the central government under the U.S. Freedom Support Act. U.S. assistance to Ukraine's private sector, local and regional governments, nonproliferation projects and military has not be halted.

The radar accusation was just the latest development in the increasingly strained relations between Ukraine and the West. NATO and the European Union have snubbed Ukraine's desire for membership, and human rights activists suspect that Mr. Kuchma had a role in the slaying of a journalist who was critical of his government. Western election observers have also questioned the fairness of the 1999 voting in which Mr. Kuchma won a second four-year term.


Saudis anger Burton

The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee yesterday insisted that Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan produce congressionally subpoenaed documents related to Americans held against their will in Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, told Prince Bandar he could not claim diplomatic immunity to protect the documents that were subpoenaed from three public relations firms employed by the embassy.

The embassy claimed that the Vienna Convention on diplomatic protocol protected the records of the lobbying firms, but Mr. Burton insisted the treaty covers only diplomats not American citizens working for them.

"I am extremely troubled you have decided to raise these highly questionable legal privileges in response to the committee's subpoena," Mr. Burton said in a letter to Prince Bandar yesterday.

"It appears that you are raising a privilege that has never been raised before in this context to prevent the Congress and the American public from learning what your lobbyists and public relations agents were doing to respond to these kidnapping cases."

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington next week include:

Monday

•Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, who will meet Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Tuesday

•Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who will meet Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

•Embassy Row will be on vacation next week. The column will resume Dec. 2.


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