- The Washington Times - Monday, December 12, 2005

Trading with Bahrain

The ambassador of Bahrain is hoping for some more good news from Congress, after the House last week gave strong support to a free-trade agreement between the United States and the important Persian Gulf ally.

Ambassador Naser Al Belooshi expects the Senate to consider the pact as early as this week. He praised the House for its 327-95 vote in support of the agreement.

“The kingdom of Bahrain is most grateful to the leadership of the members of the House of Representatives,” he said.

“The action demonstrates this mutually beneficial economic relationship can complement our well-established social, military and political relationships.”

Bahrain has given the U.S. Navy strategic access in the region as host of the 5th Fleet for the past 50 years.

Mr. Al Belooshi said his country began consultations with the United States two years ago on an agreement to eliminate tariffs on all trade between the two countries.

He urged quick Senate passage of the measure.

“We look forward to the free-trade agreement receiving full consideration by the Senate,” he said.

A key financial center, Bahrain is often considered the “Gateway to the Gulf.” The country has a gross domestic product of $900 billion and is a trading center to 1.3 billion people in the Gulf region.

“Over the last several years, Bahrain has implemented significant political, economic and social reforms and has demonstrated the importance of democratic reform in the region,” the ambassador said.

He also cited the September 11 commission report, which recognized Bahrain’s “commitment to peace and prosperity.”

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy with universal suffrage. Women make up more than half of the electorate.

Nicaraguan honors

The president of Nicaragua praised a top diplomat at the Organization of American States for help in preventing a political coup in his troubled Central American nation.

President Enrique Bolanos presented Aristides Royo, a former president of Panama, with Nicaragua’s highest honor, the grand cross of the Order of Ruben Dario, in a ceremony last week at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Royo was chairman of the OAS Permanent Council last year when Mr. Bolanos called for help from other OAS presidents to prevent his removal from office by a coalition of political opponents led by the former Marxist Sandinista rulers of Nicaragua.

Mr. Royo led a mission to Nicaragua that focused international attention on the attempt to remove Mr. Bolanos’ presidential immunity and strip him of other executive powers.

Mr. Bolanos also bestowed the grand cross of the Order of Jose de Marcoleta on Lisa Shoman, Belize’s ambassador to the OAS, for her support of Nicaragua.

“We decided to honor these two friends of our nation together, like the goals we share for more democratic, peaceful and united societies,” Mr. Bolanos said.

He added that Nicaraguan citizens were the “final beneficiaries of the struggle for liberty undertaken by those who dedicate their efforts to building a better world.”

Trial in Yemen

A prosecutor in Yemen yesterday opened the trial of two men accused of trying to kill U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajsky last year with details of the assassination plot.

Houzam al-Maas and Khalid al-Halilah … accumulated weapons, monitored his movements and tried to throw a hand grenade at him as he was entering a shop,” said the prosecutor, who was not identified in reports from Yemen.

Police stopped a man from throwing a grenade at Mr. Krajsky, as he entered a shopping mall in the capital, San’a. They also arrested an accomplice.

Mr. al-Maas has pleaded guilty, but also says he is insane. Mr. al-Halilah, a taxi driver, says he had no role in the plot but drove Mr. al-Maas to a weapons market. Both face 10 years in prison.

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

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