- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Georgia’s diplomat

The foreign minister of Georgia’s new government is a senior diplomat who served eight years as the former Soviet republic’s ambassador to the United States.

A week after overthrowing President Eduard Shevardnadze in a bloodless coup, the government named Tedo Dzhaparidze as Georgia’s top diplomat.

Mr. Dzhaparidze, ambassador here from 1994 to last year, pledged to maintain good relations with the United States as well as Russia.

“Georgia will try to maintain and deepen our strategic relationship with the United States,” he told reporters in the capital, Tbilisi, during the weekend. “One of our most important tasks [also] is to normalize relations with Russia, to raise relations to a new level and establish a sustained relationship of good neighborliness and friendship.”

Mr. Dzhaparidze, 57, is said to be part of the pro-Western leadership that forced Mr. Shevardnadze to step down Nov. 23 after weeks of protests over elections that the opposition deemed fraudulent.

Canada eyes change

Canada’s incoming prime minister is offering the outgoing finance minister the chance to mend relations with Washington as ambassador to the United States.

Paul Martin becomes prime minister on Dec. 12, the same day that John Manley steps down as finance minister. Mr. Manley, once considered Mr. Martin’s rival to lead the next government, announced his resignation on Friday and said he will not run in the next parliamentary election, expected in May.

Mr. Martin told reporters in Ottawa, “I said to John that the post of ambassador to Washington was open to him. I offered it to him, and he said he wanted to reflect upon it.”

Mr. Manley told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that he will decide by Dec. 12.

“I do have to think about it,” he said. “It wasn’t instinctive to me that that was a role that was best for me. But it’s an important job. It’s a serious time in terms of Canada-U.S. relations.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Jean Chretien angered the Bush administration with his vocal criticism of the war in Iraq, while Mr. Manley maintained good relations with Washington as head of Canada’s antiterrorism committee in Parliament. He worked closely with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Mr. Martin is considered one of the more pro-American politicians in Canada.

If Mr. Manley takes the job in Washington, he would replace Ambassador Michael Kergin, who has been here for three years.

Australia talks trade

Australian Ambassador Michael Thawley yesterday opened a final round of free trade talks with the United States, fully aware of the political obstacles facing any deal in Congress.

“It’s achievable, but it’s going to be very difficult,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. during the weekend.

“The reason for that is obviously we still have a number of issues to settle, and inevitably in any negotiation you end up with the difficult ones at the very end.”

Australia is seeking greater access to U.S. markets for dairy products, beef and sugar, while the United States is demanding changes in Australia’s regulations requiring a certain amount of local content in film, television and radio. Washington also objects to Australia’s cost controls on prescription medicine.

Mr. Thawley predicted that any trade deal worked out by negotiators will face political pressure in congressional elections next year.

“I think it’s true to say generally that trade is not seen as a good thing politically right now, and therefore it is going to be very difficult to get any trade agreement through the Congress,” he said.

“But the benefits for Australia are so great that we would be mad to miss the opportunity.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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