- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Don’t forget Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast political leaders are worried that the rebellion next door in Liberia will spread into its borders if the United States sends troops only to the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

Mamadou Koulibaly, the speaker of Ivory Coast’s National Assembly, said U.S. troops should also be sent to his country, which is recovering from its own civil war with the help of about 900 French peacekeepers enforcing a July 4 settlement between the government and rebels from the north.

“Peace in Ivory Coast depends on peace in Liberia,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times last week. “Controlling Monrovia doesn’t mean Liberia is at peace or that the Ivory Coast is at peace.”

Ivory Coast Finance Minister Bohoun Bouabre plans to reinforce that message today when he holds a 10 a.m. news conference in the National Press Club’s First Amendment Room, the Ivory Coast Embassy said.

Mr. Koulibaly warned that rebellion could spread throughout the region and even threaten Nigeria, which is planning to send peacekeeping troops to Liberia.

“The peace situation can’t be treated as a local case because all West African countries could be destabilized,” he said.

Mr. Koulibaly, a supporter of President Laurent Gbagbo, expressed his distrust of the French as honest brokers. He complained that the former colonial power imposed the peace deal on the government, requiring Mr. Gbagbo to enter a power-sharing agreement with the rebels.

“The French authorities obliged us to accept this agreement,” he said.

Rebels control 17 of the 41 government Cabinet positions, including the key communications, justice, agriculture and sports and youth ministries, he said.

Mr. Koulibaly said a second goal of his D.C. visit was to get the U.S. government to stop treating Ivory Coast as a dependent of France.

He said whenever Ivory Coast asks the United States for support or aid, officials always want to know what France thinks.

“I am trying to explain to American officials that U.S.-Ivorian relations should be a direct relationship without going through Paris,” Mr. Koulibaly said.

“We don’t want to be seen as French territory,” he added. “We want to be treated as a free and independent country.”

Mr. Koulibaly dismissed reports that the struggle in his country is between southern Christians and northern Muslims, offering himself as an example. Mr. Koulibaly is a Muslim from the north.

“We represent a new generation of leaders,” he said.

Mr. Koulibaly said global tension in the 21st century has shifted from the East-West struggle of the Cold War.

“Now it is divided between the countries that were colonized and those that were not. We want to build a democracy, and we don’t need a tutor,” he said, referring to France.

Mongolia lauds envoy

Mongolian Ambassador Ravdan Bold is proud to have an American diplomat who loves his country serve as the new U.S. ambassador to the Central Asian democracy.

Mr. Bold yesterday said Ambassador Pamela Jo Howell Slutz will be warmly welcomed when she arrives in the capital, Ulan Bator.

“Pamela Slutz is a good and old friend of Mongolia’s,” Mr. Bold said.

In a previous position at the State Department, she played “one of the key roles in ushering” Mongolia into the Association of South East Asian Nations, he said.

“Obviously this [new] assignment will be challenging to her to serve as envoy in the country sandwiched between two giants [Russia and China] that is flying the flag of democracy and seeking its ‘third neighbor,’” he said, repeating a symbolic reference to the United States.

He added that Mrs. Slutz can “take comfort in knowing that she will live in a house in Mongolia that was built by her husband, Ron Deutch.” He served there as deputy chief of mission from 1997 to 1999 and oversaw the construction of a new U.S. Embassy housing compound.

At her swearing-in ceremony last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, “In Pam Slutz, President Bush has found the right person with the right background to help Mongolia reach its vast potential for creating a democracy rooted in good governance, economic growth and investment in its people.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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