- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

Customs cooperation

The United States and India closed another front in the war on terrorism with the signing of a customs treaty that allows officials to share intelligence to protect their borders.

“International trade and criminal activity are both increasing rapidly. It is critical that customs agencies around the world share information in order to secure global trade routes and improve the flow of trade,” Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said this week.

In India, U.S. Ambassador David Mulford signed the treaty Dec. 15 with A.K. Singh, chairman of Indian Customs.

Mr. Mulford said the treaty will help both countries “in the prevention, investigation and repression of customs offenses and, equally important given today’s international environment, in our collaborative efforts in the global war on terrorism.”

He said the Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement establishes formal guidelines for sharing intelligence and investigative data that would be classified without such a treaty.

“Together we will more effectively coordinate responses and develop defenses against terrorism, trade fraud, money laundering, narcotics interdiction, smuggling of weapons of mass destruction, cybersmuggling, child pornography, intellectual property violations and human trafficking,” Mr. Mulford said.

The treaty is one of more than 50 such bilateral agreements between the United States and other countries.

Proud Hungarian

The Hungarian ambassador is proud that his government kept its word to find a way to maintain troops in Iraq, after Parliament refused to extend their deployment into next year.

“We had made clear on several occasions that Hungary won’t abandon Iraq and the [U.S.-led] coalition,” Ambassador Andras Simonyi said, after the government’s decision to send fresh troops to Iraq under NATO command. “The Hungarian flag will continue to fly in Iraq.”

Hungary decided earlier this month to deploy 165 soldiers to replace those whose assignment in Iraq will end next Friday. They will serve as part of the NATO Training and Implementation Mission in Iraq, Mr. Simonyi said.

The decision to send troops under NATO command did not require parliamentary approval.

Mr. Simonyi said the government last month received a “pretty solid majority” of 191 votes to extend the deployment but failed to win the required two-thirds approval. Opponents stopped the measure with 153 votes.

Ukrainian democracy

The “eyes of the world” will be on Ukraine this weekend as voters go to the polls for a third time in two months to elect a president after millions of protesters forced authorities to nullify the fraudulent runoff election in November, said former Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy.

Mr. Murphy, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the demonstrations dubbed the “Orange Revolution” were a “genuinely popular movement of millions of Ukrainians from all walks of life who are fed up with the current regime and who fervently want a government that will be their servant, not their master.”

“I am confident that their wish will be fulfilled if Sunday’s rerun is, indeed, free and fair,” Mr. Murphy added.

The protesters support opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, considered the pro-Western candidate. He is running against Viktor Yanukovych, who is strongly backed by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Yanukovych claimed victory in the Nov. 21 runoff, which was overturned by the Ukrainian Supreme Court.

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

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