- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Storm diplomacy

Hurricane Isabel disrupted diplomatic affairs in Washington yesterday, as embassies rescheduled receptions, think tanks postponed events and one foreign president canceled a news conference.

Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson was scheduled to discuss his proposal for a new northern partnership, involving the United States, Canada, Russia and the Nordic countries.

He recently discussed his “New North” concept in a meeting with Alaska Gov. Frank H. Murkowski. The proposal would span the entire Northern Hemisphere and “deal with issues important to the countries of that area,” he said.

The Kyrgyzstan Embassy rescheduled a reception to Sept. 25, and many embassies closed early.

The Progressive Policy Institute was to hold a forum on trade relations between the United States and the Muslim world. That event has not yet been rescheduled.

The congressional human rights panel, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, postponed a hearing with survivors who lost relatives in the conflict in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. No new date has been set for the hearing.

Somber Swedes

The mood at the Swedish Embassy was somber Wednesday night, as members of the Swedish women’s soccer team joined Ambassador Jan Eliasson in remembering Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was slain in Stockholm last week.

“I’m the same age of Anna Lindh,” team coach Marika Domanski Lyfors, 46, told our correspondent John Haydon. “I have followed her career. We grew up seeing her face in life, especially us women and girls. We will play in her honor and play for her.”

The Swedish team is in town for a World Cup match Sunday against the U.S. national team at RFK Stadium.

Mr. Eliasson, asked for a prediction on the outcome of the match, proved to be a true ambassador.

“We look forward to the match on Sunday. Whatever the result, we will applaud,” he said. “Is that diplomatic enough?”

Ukraine apes Soviets

The new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine yesterday defended press freedom and criticized the government in Kiev for adopting “Soviet” methods to intimidate the news media.

Ambassador John E. Herbst said at a conference on free speech and human rights that the United States is “concerned about the encroachment on the freedom of the press in Ukraine.” He added that the former Soviet republic is adopting “Soviet methods” to try to discourage press criticism of the government.

Mr. Herbst, in his first public appearance since arriving in Kiev last week, also criticized the government for failing to solve the case of the slain journalist, Georgy Gongadze, who vanished in September 2000. His headless body was discovered two months later in a wooded area near the capital.

“There are many questions without answers concerning the death of Georgy Gongadze, and we would like these questions to be solved and see those responsible for his death to be called to account,” he said.

The political opposition in Ukraine has blamed President Leonid Kuchma and several other senior officials of involvement in the killing. Mr. Kuchma has strongly denied the accusations.

Mr. Herbst said at the conference, “It is very fitting that my first public appearance in Ukraine is in support of freedom of speech and human rights because of the important role these values play in the United States and democracies around the world.

“Freedom of the media and the rule of law are essential for the development of democratic and prosperous societies.”

He noted that 50 participants in the conference received cash awards through the U.S. Embassy’s Media Freedom and Human Rights Grant Competition.

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

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