The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is growing increasingly worried that the country’s presidential election at the end of the month could be marred by corruption and voter intimidation.
Ambassador John Herbst is urging Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko to ensure their supporters behave themselves and guarantee a free and fair vote on Oct. 31. The two men are running to replace President Leonid Kuchma, who has served for 10 years.
Mr. Herbst, speaking last week at a forum in the capital, Kiev, said stability in Europe hinges on the election.
“The election coming up is tremendously important for the development of Ukraine and for the stability of Europe,” he said.
Mr. Herbst defended accusations by the United States, Canada and Europe of official intimidation of voters. The election campaign has been marred by violence against political activists and accusations that someone tried to poison Mr. Yushchenko.
“Everyone knows how senior officials in the regions abuse their positions to force people to support one of the candidates,” Mr. Herbst said.
He added that he and his diplomatic colleagues reject complaints from the Ukrainian government that they are interfering in domestic affairs by calling for a free and fair election.
“It’s silly,” he said of the criticism. “We only want that the Ukrainian people be able to choose their leader without interference.”
Schools fight terror
Even a trowel sometimes can be a weapon in the war against terror, as the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan demonstrated last week at a ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of schools in tribal areas suspected of harboring terrorists.
Ambassador Nancy Powell, with Nobuaki Tanaka, the Japanese ambassador to Pakistan, laid the foundation at a school in a village near Peshawar, the first of 130 schools to be built as part of a $5 million U.S.-Japanese project.
Pakistani officials say the schools can help educate children who know only the tribal ways of their communities, which are suspected of sheltering al Qaeda terrorists and fugitives of the old, repressive Taliban regime of Afghanistan.
The ceremony was one of Miss Powell’s last acts as ambassador. She is returning to Washington to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. Ryan C. Crocker, a career ambassador, will replace her.
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Nichervan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, who is to discuss the positive developments in his area with administration officials and members of Congress.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan, who is to meet administration officials and members of Congress.
Mayor Oscar Ortiz of Santa Tecla, El Salvador, who is to address the Inter-American Dialogue.
Miguel Abia Biteo Boriko, prime minister of Equatorial Guinea, who is to hold a noon press conference at the National Press Club. He also is to meet administration officials, members of Congress and corporate executives.
Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Spain, who are to meet Rodrigo de Rato, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and professors and students of Washington-area universities.
Merhat Sharipzhan, director of the Kazakh Service for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who is to discuss the Kazakh elections with invited guests at the broadcast service’s headquarters.
Mark Stolarik, professor of Slovak history at the University of Ottawa, who is to deliver a lecture at the Slovak Embassy.
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.