- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

Lithuanian scandal

The presidential impeachment crisis gripping Lithuania shows “democracy in action,” the Lithuanian ambassador said yesterday, as he tried to put the best face on a political debacle that has split his nation and caused the Lithuanian leader to cancel a visit to the White House.

Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas said the showdown between President Rolandas Paksas and the parliament is the worst blot on Lithuania’s reputation since it declared independence from the Soviet Union 13 years ago.

“I’m confident Lithuania will emerge from this scandal more mature and stronger,” Mr. Usackas said. “The constitution is functioning properly. The checks and balances are working. All of the actors in this drama have executed their constitutional duties in a public way.”

In Lithuania yesterday, members of parliament announced that they were preparing to open impeachment proceedings against Mr. Paksas, who is accused of having links to Russian organized-crime figures. A special investigative committee last week accused Mr. Paksas of “posing a threat to Lithuanian national security.”

The ambassador, who spent six months arranging Mr. Paksas’ meeting with President Bush, urged his leader to cancel the Washington visit three weeks ago when he traveled to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, for consultations.

“I think he made the correct decision,” Mr. Usackas said. “It was not the right time.”

Iraqi diplomat arrives

President Bush this week praised Iraq’s new representative to the United States as an “articulate defender of freedom and peace,” as she visited him at the White House.

Although she is not a fully accredited ambassador, Rend Rahim Francke will take over all the functions of a chief of a diplomatic mission when she reopens an Iraqi interests section under the protection of the Bahraini Embassy.

Iraq broke diplomatic ties with the United States in 1991, during the Persian Gulf war that forced Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait.

“There hasn’t been official Iraqi representation in Washington for that long, so there’s a great deal of work to do, and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Mrs. Francke told reporters after the White House meeting on Wednesday.

Mr. Bush said after the meeting, “Rend is an articulate defender of freedom and peace.”

Mrs. Francke, who was born in Baghdad, has been a U.S. citizen since 1987 and has served as executive director of the Washington-based Iraq Foundation, which promotes human rights, since 1991.

Angry in Indonesia

The U.S. ambassador to Indonesia complained for the second time this week about Indonesian criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq.

Ambassador Ralph Boyce told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda had made an “unjustified attack on [U.S.] policies” in a speech on Monday.

Mr. Boyce, reinforcing remarks made Tuesday, said Mr. Wirayuda should have kept his comments private.

“For the past few years, we have made an effort to accentuate the positive in our relations. We have the occasional difference of opinion or criticism and problems. But we have found that it is better to try to resolve those in private,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Boyce said the foreign minister made “assumptions [on U.S. policy] that we plainly do not share” and that the United States believes “it is important to show our side of the story.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, opposed the war in Iraq, but Mr. Wirayuda’s speech was the government’s strongest public criticism.

He especially angered the United States when he said that if weapons of mass destruction are not found, it would mean that “an entire country” had been “leveled to the ground for no good reason.”

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

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