- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Slovaks mourn

As Slovak President Rudolf Schuster prepares to attend former President Ronald Reagan’s funeral tomorrow, he also will be mourning the first combat deaths of Slovak soldiers in Iraq.

The Slovak Embassy said the country lost three soldiers in an enemy mortar attack in Iraq on Tuesday and another yesterday in an accident in Cyprus, where he served with U.N. peacekeepers.

Peter Dinga, Miroslav Frkan and Vladimir Simonides — all sergeants in an engineering detachment — were killed when a mortar exploded a pile of 100 antitank and 300 smaller shells they were preparing to destroy, news reports from Iraq said. One Latvian and two Polish soldiers also were killed in the attack near the town of Suwayrah, about 25 miles south of Baghdad.

The Slovak soldiers were among a contingent of 105 Slovak troops with the U.S.-led coalition.

In Cyprus, Sgt. Miroslav Hruska died after he was struck by the rotor blades of a helicopter. He was one of 277 Slovak soldiers with the U.N. peacekeeping force there.

The Slovak Embassy, at 3523 International Court NW, will open a condolence book today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Embassy spokeswoman Viera Viskupova said the Slovak mission has received sympathetic e-mails from many Americans.

One woman, whose son is a Marine who expects to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, wrote, “My heart is filled with an especially great sadness for the families and for all of Slovakia.”

Another e-mail said, “We extend our sincere appreciation for Slovakia’s efforts in this international war on terrorism.”

Strike in Belarus

The U.S. ambassador to Belarus this week praised three dissident lawmakers who are on a hunger strike to protest the authoritarian government of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ambassador George Kroll visited Valery Frolov, Sergei Skrebets and Vladimir Parfenovich, who began their fast on June 3.

“As a person, as a foreigner, as a representative of the United States, I acknowledge your striving toward democracy and respect your commitment to your homeland, to the future of Belarus,” Mr. Kroll was quoted as saying in dispatches from the Belarussian capital, Minsk.

They are demanding electoral reforms and the release of political prisoners and protesting an effort to extend Mr. Lukashenko’s term.

Diplomats from the European Union also expressed support of the strikers, who are staging their protest in Mr. Frolov’s apartment.

The three legislators want a constitutional amendment to replace members of the election commission with democratic reformers and increase the commission’s oversight over voting procedures.

Mr. Lukashenko is expected to try to use the Oct. 17 parliamentary elections to extend his term.

The United States consistently has criticized Mr. Lukashenko for abusing human rights since he was elected in 1994 in the former Soviet republic.

Two to the Gulf

President Bush this week selected ambassadors to two Arab nations on the Persian Gulf.

He picked Charles Untermeyer, a former executive with the computer giant Compaq, to serve in Qatar. Mr. Untermeyer, now with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, was director of Voice of America and headed the office of White House personnel under President George Bush.

William T. Monroe, a career diplomat, was nominated to be ambassador to Bahrain, home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet. Mr. Monroe is currently deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.

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

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