- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Arab democracy
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon believes that the crisis in the Middle East could lead to democratic reforms in Arab nations.
Mr. Ayalon said at a recent forum with East European diplomats: "It is condescending to assume that Arabs cannot adopt democracy as a political system."
Israel is often identified as the only democracy in the Middle East. Although several Arab nations have elections, many are flawed and power is often concentrated in the hands of hereditary monarchs or presidents who face weak opposition.
Mr. Ayalon did not mention the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or the reform of the Palestinian Authority, but observers said he clearly had those issues in mind when he talked of the potential spread of democracy in the region.
The forum last week, hosted by B'nai B'rith International and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), was designed to raise Jewish issues with representatives of the so-called "New Europe," nations once dominated by the former Soviet Union. Many of those countries now are rebelling against the dominance of France and Germany, as they express support for the U.S. position on Iraq.
"Generally speaking, voting records of the new European democracies on issues relating to Israel at the United Nations and other intentional forums is markedly better than that of existing European Union states," said Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's director for international Jewish affairs, said many of the new European democracies have made a "genuine effort to come to terms with Holocaust concerns, ranging from property restitution to dealing with historical memory."
Mr. Ayalon appealed to the envoys from "like-minded nations [to] pull together to meet the challenges that affect us all from democracy building to fighting terrorism to forging strong economic relations."
Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora said East European nations have overcome the legacy of Stalinism "to embrace democracy in very recent history."
"We can, therefore, play an important role alongside the United States and Israel by sharing our experiences with nations in need of democracy building in other global regions," he added.
The forum also was attended by Ambassadors Przemyslaw Grudzinski of Poland, Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria and Fatos Tarifa of Albania as well as Deputy Chiefs of Mission Goce Georgievski of Macedonia, Kestutis Jankauskas of Lithuania, Andres Kolk of Estonia, Stelian Stoian of Romania and Viktor Szederkenyi of Hungary.

Kind words to Europe
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is trying to soothe the French-German spat with the United States over a war against Iraq by appealing to common interests and shared values.
Ambassador Rockwell Schnabel told reporters in Brussels that the United States and Europe have a "commonality of interests and beliefs and values" and pointed to the 4.4 million Americans employed by European firms and the 4 million Europeans working for U.S. companies in the nations of the European Union.
"That's something that you just don't undo," he said.
Mr. Schnabel said he is distressed by tensions over the Iraq situation, as France and Germany lead efforts to block the United States from taking military action to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"Clearly what we read today is very disturbing, but I can't imagine that over time wisdom won't prevail," he said.
Mr. Schnabel said the United States and Europe could work together to fight poverty in countries that are breeding terrorists.
"Together we can fight the one single thing that is overriding, and that is world poverty. Terrorism is linked to that very directly," he said.
"If we can address together the issue of global poverty, that is where we ought to be focusing. That is something where we could make a major, major difference in the world."

New ambassadors
President Bush has nominated career diplomats Stephen Mull and Wayne Neill to serve as ambassadors to Lithuania and to Benin in West Africa respectively.
Mr. Mull is deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia and Mr. Neill is an Africa specialist at the State Department.

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