- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

Protest for Buddhists

Michael Marine, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, is angered over the treatment of two prominent Buddhist monks who belong to a sect outlawed by the communist regime.

He told reporters last week that Vietnam is violating promises to honor religious liberty.

“On human rights and religious freedom, we want Vietnam to live up to its commitments it made in 1991 when it signed on to the U.N. covenant on civil and political rights,” Mr. Marine told reporters in Hanoi.

He said the government prevented Thich Quang Do, the 76-year-old deputy leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, from visiting the 87-year-old church leader, Thich Huyen Quang, who was hospitalized two weeks ago in Quy Nhon, a town about 250 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City, where the younger monk lives.

“We’ve made it clear in various conversations that this is very difficult to understand, and I personally cannot see why [Mr. Do] cannot be allowed to travel and why [Mr. Quangs] disciples would not be allowed to see him,” Mr. Marine said.

Mr. Do, one of Vietnam’s most prominent religious dissidents, and Mr. Quang have been under tight travel restrictions since October 2003. The government has accused them of possessing state secrets and trying to reorganize the church with foreign assistance.

The State Department in September included Vietnam on a black list of nations that severely restrict religious freedom and is scheduled to decide whether to impose economic sanctions or a lesser form of punishment by Dec. 15.

Libya makes move

Libya’s envoy to the United States is in Texas today to promote his country’s new relationship with Washington at a major conference on African oil.

Ali Suleiman Aujali, head of the Libyan Interests’ Section in Washington, will be one of the most popular guests at the 3rd annual Africa Oil and Gas Forum in Houston, sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa, said council president Stephen Hayes.

“As the U.S. private sector begins to re-enter the Libyan market after 18 years, the minister’s visit represents a key step in rebuilding business ties between the two countries,” Mr. Hayes said.

The United States re-established diplomatic ties with Libya after the North African nation abandoned its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs last year.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

Princess Martha Louise of Norway. Tomorrow she joins Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek to open the 8th annual Norwegian Christmas celebration at Union Station in a public ceremony at 5 p.m.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who joins Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in opening a development fund to promote joint ventures between Maryland and Israel.

Tomorrow

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Manuel Oliveira Guterres and former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. They discuss European views of the U.S. presidential election in a forum sponsored by the Center for American Progress.

Wednesday

Asunta Wagura, executive director of the Kenya Network of Women Living with AIDS, and Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies of Vietnam. They participate in a 10:30 a.m. discussion at the National Press Club on women with AIDS.

John Colorusso, a professor of anthropology at Canada’s McMaster University, and Emil Pain, director of Moscow’s Center for Ethnopolitical Studies. They discuss the North Caucasus in a forum sponsored by the W.P. Carey Forum.

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

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