- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Irish candor

Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament, used some heated words in a bid to cool trans-Atlantic tensions over the recent Spanish elections.

The plain-spoken Irish politician, on a visit to Washington last week, bluntly rejected criticisms voiced by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and others in the United States that Spanish voters had “appeased” Islamist terrorists by ousting the pro-U.S. government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in an election held just days after the Madrid train bombings that killed 190 persons.

Mr. Hastert was “talking through his [posterior],” Mr. Cox told The Washington Times’ David R. Sands and a small group of reporters and scholars at a luncheon Friday. Although Spain’s prime minister-designate is opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the new socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero “will be no different than Mr. Aznar in its commitment to fighting global terrorism,” Mr. Cox insisted.

But by the same token, Mr. Cox said, Mr. Zapatero’s post-victory comments saying he hoped to see Mr. Bush defeated in the U.S. election this fall were similarly beyond the pale.

“It is none of his … business who American voters choose to select as their political leaders,” said Mr. Cox, using saltier language.

Mr. Cox said both the U.S. administration and EU leaders must be more measured in their words, especially at a trying time when both the unsettled situation in Iraq and the al Qaeda threat pose major challenges to Western unity.

“I really think we have to be careful not to become agents in a debate that only debases us all,” he said.

U.S. reassures India

The U.S. ambassador to India is trying to calm worries in New Delhi about a new U.S. military status awarded to India’s nuclear rival, Pakistan.

Ambassador David Mulford this week told business leaders that U.S.-Indian relations will not suffer because Washington declared Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally,” a status that will assure priority military shipments and other benefits to help Pakistan in the war on terrorism.

“The United States will continue to build strong relationships with India and Pakistan. Each of these relationships stands on its own merit,” Mr. Mulford said Tuesday.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell contacted Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha on Sunday to discuss the status, which was conferred on Pakistan during a visit to the capital, Islamabad, last week.

“Secretary Powell has indicated that this [new status] will facilitate cooperation between the United States and Pakistan in the war on terrorism. This is an objective that India shares,” Mr. Mulford said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration is prepared to discuss a similar arrangement with India.

The United States also has awarded the non-NATO status to Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.

Unlikely ambassador

The Russian Embassy yesterday dismissed a newspaper report in Moscow that predicted Russia’s next ambassador to the United States will be a free-market reformer stained by accusations of corruption.

“The ambassador is here and has no plans to leave,” a spokesman said of Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov, who has been in the United States since 1999.

The Russia Journal reported “rumors” that Anatoly Chubais will be appointed to help repair damaged relations with the United States. Mr. Chubais, a former deputy prime minister, is popular in Washington for his advocacy of capitalism. However, in Russia, he is dogged by accusations that he enriched himself when he was in charge of privatizing state-owned industries in the 1990s.

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

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