- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

Congress presses rights

Congress is urging President Bush to raise human rights issues in Belarus, Poland and Russia when he travels to Warsaw and Moscow this week.

The congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed concerns about property rights in Poland, the conflict in Russia’s Chechnya province, religious freedom in Russia and widespread human rights violations in Belarus.

In a letter to Mr. Bush, the commission said Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski has failed to keep a promise he made to Congress last year concerning the restitution of property confiscated from Poles by Nazis and communists.

Mr. Kwasniewski promised that Poland would draft a law to deal with the property issue early this year, but nothing has been done, the commission said.

“More than five decades after the end of World War II and 14 years since the end of communism in Poland, the survivors of totalitarianism still await a small measure of justice for the theft of their property,” the letter said.

It urged Mr. Bush to raise “the continued serious violations of international humanitarian law and basic human rights” in Chechnya when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia insists it is fighting Islamic terrorism in its war against Chechen separatists.

“While we recognize that some terrorist elements continue to operate in Chechnya, as demonstrated by recent suicide bombings, Russia’s legitimate struggle against terrorism must not be a pretext for assaults on the civilian population or the indiscriminate use of force,” the letter said.

It also asked Mr. Bush to urge Mr. Putin to stop denying or revoking the visas of missionaries from “select minority faiths,” chiefly Roman Catholics and Protestants.

“Knowing the importance you place on religious freedom, we urge you to raise this matter with President Putin,” the commission said.

“Finally, we remain deeply concerned about the poor situations with respect to human rights, democracy and rule of law in the Republic of Belarus under the regime of Europe’s remaining dictator, Alexander Lukashenko,” the commission added.

“We encourage you to call upon the Russian Federation to use its influence to encourage democratic development in Belarus, while reiterating U.S. support for Belorussian sovereignty and independence.”

Mr. Bush leaves Friday for Poland and Russia before traveling to France next week for the Group of Eight summit.

The commission is chaired by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, and Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican.

Israeli envoy rips Arafat

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon denounced Yasser Arafat in a recent Washington television interview, accusing the Palestinian leader of terrorism and corruption.

“I’m saying that Yasser Arafat is indirectly and also directly involved with the increased terrorist wave,” Mr. Ayalon told WETA’s Frank Sesno on the “Worldtalk” program last week.

“It is inspired, financed [and] helped by Arafat and by people surrounding him. He is certainly responsible for the terror we see now.

“Arafat is the way of corruption, the way of terror, the way of incitement and violence, and this cannot continue.”

Palestinian terrorists carried out six bombings last week.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Istvan Csillag, Hungary’s economic minister. He will meet Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans to discuss Hungary’s efforts to help rebuild Iraq and the future of U.S.-Hungarian economic relations.

Thursday

• David R. Cameron of the University of Toronto, who will address the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on his work to promote peace in Sri Lanka.

Friday

• Ludmilla Alekseeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group and president of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. She will discuss the upcoming Russian parliamentary and presidential elections in a forum sponsored by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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

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