- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Reich resigns

The White House yesterday announced the resignation of Otto Reich, a presidential adviser on Latin America who has angered liberals since the 1980s with his strong anticommunist views and opposition to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said she “recently accepted” Mr. Reich’s resignation, calling him a “valuable and trusted” member of the Bush administration.

“I have been able to count on his good judgment and advice in advancing, through the president’s initiatives, freedom and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere,” Miss Rice said.

She also praised Mr. Reich’s work on the Commission for the Assistance to a Free Cuba. Miss Rice did not give a reason for his resignation as special envoy for Western Hemisphere initiatives, but one White House source said he returned to the private sector and his departure was voluntary.

President Bush two years ago named him as the temporary assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, after Senate Democrats blocked his appointment to the permanent post. Mr. Bush appointed him as an adviser to Miss Rice in January 2003.

Mr. Reich served as ambassador to Venezuela from 1986 to 1989, but his tenure as head of the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America in the early 1980s gained him enemies among some congressional Democrats who supported Nicaragua’s Marxist Sandinista government.

Beneficial embargo

Turkey’s economic embargo on Armenia has had an unexpected positive effect on the economy, said Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian.

Turkey’s embargo is meant to force Armenia to relinquish land it captured from Turkey’s ally, Azerbaijan, in the 1990s during a civil war in the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1988. One million Azerbaijanis were displaced, and the conflict has yet to be resolved. An unofficial cease-fire has held since 1994.

Although State Department reports say the embargo has devastated the economy of landlocked Armenia, Mr. Oskanian said his country has diversified.

“We are developing and developing well. We are more efficient, more effective,” he told our correspondentTom Carter in an interview at the Armenian Embassy this week.

“We have strengthened our [information technology] industry. We have diversified into diamonds and jewelry: things that can go out on satellite or in small pouches on airplanes.”

Mr. Oskanian met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and a variety of senators during his brief “working” visit.

He said that Armenia was gratified that it had met the qualifications necessary to be a part of the Millennium Challenge Account, which will give Armenia access to U.S. financial aid in the next three to five years.

“There are billions of dollars available, which will be extremely valuable to our economy,” said Mr. Oskanian, predicting that his country will continue to liberalize the economy, invest in “human capital” and improve human rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Oskanian said Armenia supported the U.S.-led effort to liberate Iraq, although it did not provide troops. Armenia granted permission for coalition planes to fly over its territory and is prepared to send a specialist team to help remove land mines.

Mr. Oskanian also said Armenia’s relationship with the European Union improved this week when the union welcomed Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia under its “neighborhood policy,” which is aimed at encouraging ties with the European bloc. However, he added that the designation does not guarantee membership.

“This was a first signal saying, ‘Why not?’ It has not been ruled out, but there is no firm commitment,” Mr. Oskanian said.

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

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