- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

New start’ for U.S., EU

The ambassador of Luxembourg hopes her tiny country can help forge a “new start” in U.S.-European relations during the six months that her government holds the presidency of the European Union.

Ambassador Arlette Conzemius said the United States and the European Union are working more closely together than most international observers realize and that President Bush’s upcoming European visit will be an opportunity to showcase the cooperation between American and European leaders.

“This demands a new willingness from every side to get trans-Atlantic relations off to a new start,” she told United Press International in an interview the news service distributed yesterday.

“We would like to show the world that the EU and the U.S. are working together on a new phase of our relationship, not only on trans-Atlantic relations, but on international issues that concern us both.”

She said European and American leaders “really coordinated efforts” to support pro-democracy advocates in Ukraine and are cooperating in the war on terrorism.

“This does not mean we will agree on everything, but the EU wants to show that it is a global partner with the U.S., as it grows stronger,” she said.

Luxembourg, which assumed the rotating presidency on Jan. 1, oversees a union of 25 nations that soon will begin holding referendums on a proposed European constitution. The first is in Spain on Feb. 20.

Mrs. Conzemius dismissed speculation that any of the member nations will reject the constitution.

“We are certainly not envisaging this scenario,” she said. “Of course, we hope [the] referendums will have positive results.”

The ambassador said one of Luxembourg’s advantages as president is that the country of 460,000 people has no domestic agenda that would interfere with its desire to promote a pan-European one.

“Luxembourg does not have a big agenda to push,” she said. “We know our limitations, so we try to involve various institutions and work as a team.”

Venezuela outraged

The Venezuelan government is accusing the United States of trying to exacerbate a dispute between leftist President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of Washington, and conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a U.S. ally.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel reacted with outrage after the State Department this week demanded to know why Mr. Chavez’s government was sheltering Colombian rebel Rodrigo Granda, described as a “senior … terrorist,” and providing him with a Venezuelan passport.

Six weeks ago, Colombia paid bounty hunters in Venezuela to abduct Mr. Granda and return him to Colombia to face charges of being a leading member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC.

The United States repeatedly has denied involvement in the affair, which led to a diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Colombia.

“The elements of the Chavez government who are alleging U.S. involvement are attempting to divert attention from the Venezuelan government’s apparent tolerance of terrorist groups using its territory with impunity,” a State Department spokesman said Monday.

In Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, Mr. Rangel accused the Bush administration of “barefaced meddling” in the country’s domestic affairs.

“Venezuela doesn’t have to report to the U.S. government,” he said. “Instead of taking a discreet attitude favoring an understanding between Colombia and Venezuela, the U.S. government has fanned the fire of confrontation.”

FARC, a Marxist guerrilla army, has fought a 40-year war to try to topple the Colombian government.

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

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