- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

U.S. democracy plan

The United States and Egypt yesterday disagreed over the future of democracy in the Middle East, as Cairo resisted Washington’s call for promoting elected governments in the region.

Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman urged Arab governments to adopt democratic reforms without insisting first on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher rejected the U.S. appeal.

Mr. Grossman told reporters in Cairo, “The effort for reform and the effort for dignity and the effort for individuality in Arab countries does not have to wait until there is a full peace.”

He said he assured Mr. Maher in a private meeting that the Bush administration’s support for democracy in the Middle East is “not a substitute” for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Bringing peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors and between Israel and the Palestinians is a priority for the United States of America,” he said.

Mr. Grossman also insisted that Washington is not trying to force its own version of democracy on the Middle East.

“We agree with the people in Egypt that the best ideas for reform — the ideas that will work for reform — are ideas that will come from the region and from each country. Reform cannot be imposed from the outside,” he said.

Mr. Grossman lauded Turkey as a model for the Arab world, where most countries are ruled by monarchies or strong presidents with little tolerance for political dissent.

“Turkey is a place where it is possible to be very democratic and Islamic,” said Mr. Grossman, a former ambassador to Turkey.

Mr. Maher repeated Egypt’s position, arguing that “one of the basic obstacles to the reform process is the continuation of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the Arab peoples.”

Disarming Cambodia

The U.S. ambassador to Cambodia praised the country’s decision to accept American aid to destroy its stockpile of Soviet-era antiaircraft missiles, which is a suspected source of arms to terrorists throughout Asia.

Ambassador Charles Ray said Washington will provide $233,000 to dismantle the 233 man portable air defense systems (Manpads), shoulder-fired missiles that pose a great threat to civilian aircraft.

“I am pleased to announce today that U.S. government funding has been approved so that Cambodia can implement this initiative and that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces will destroy the entire stock of Cambodian Manpads,” Mr. Ray told reporters in the capital, Phnom Penh.

He added that U.S. experts will arrive in Cambodia March 22 to review the destruction of the stockpile, which should be completed by April 2, Agence France-Presse reported.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said, “I am confident that after the destruction of the missiles, Cambodia will no longer be subject to any assertion of being a source for channeling this kind of weapon to criminals.”

Hungarian honor

Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi this week presented one of his country’s highest awards to a former U.S. ambassador for his support for higher education in Hungary.

Nicholas Salgo, who was born in Budapest, served as ambassador to Hungary from 1983 to 1986 and established a guest professorship at the Eotvos Lorand University, where he graduated in 1937.

Mr. Salgo, a real estate developer who built the Watergate complex in Washington, named the professorship for his father, Otto.

“He provided outstanding support for Hungarian higher education,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Simonyi on Monday presented Mr. Salgo with Hungary’s Order of Merit, Commander Cross.

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

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