- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Croatian scandal

Croatia’s former ambassador to the United States resigned this week from his post as foreign minister because of a corruption scandal that threatened his party’s chances in the Jan. 16 presidential runoff election.

Miomir Zuzul, ambassador here from 1996 to 2001, repeatedly has denied charges that he received bribes through the privatization of government assets in the 1990s.

“I have decided to step down from the position of foreign minister,” he said Tuesday in a letter to Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, according to reports from Zagreb, the Croatian capital.

“The damage in the eyes of the public has been done. If I were to remain, it would become too big a burden for both the government and the ministry that I am heading.”

Mr. Sanader asked him to remain as foreign minister until he can appoint a replacement.

Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, who is trailing incumbent President Stipe Mesic in the runoff, complained that the scandal hurt her campaign.

“I welcome Mr. Zuzul’s decision, which shows that he has a good sense of political reality and is taking into account national interests,” she said. “Regardless of the real facts, the perception in the public is what matters in politics.”

In his letter, Mr. Zuzul said he is “proud and satisfied with what I have achieved in the past year.” He helped prepare Croatia for negotiations to enter the European Union, which it hopes to join by 2010.

Mr. Zuzul often had a difficult time in Washington when he represented President Franjo Tudjman and the Clinton administration frequently complained of Mr. Tudjman’s autocratic policies.

New Canadian envoy

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is preparing to break with tradition and send a political appointee to serve as ambassador to the United States, a Canadian newspaper said yesterday.

Mr. Martin has chosen Frank McKenna, a former three-term premier of the province of New Brunswick, to replace Ambassador Michael Kergin, a career diplomat, the Globe and Mail of Toronto reported. The newspaper said Mr. McKenna would be the first former politician to serve as ambassador in Washington.

Mr. Martin, in a press conference yesterday, sidestepped a question from reporters seeking to confirm the Globe and Mail report, which was based on unnamed sources.

“I think that Frank McKenna is a Canadian who has great qualities; and if he decides that he wants to serve his country, then I’m sure that we will all benefit from it,” he said.

The Globe and Mail reported that Mr. McKenna has agreed to serve as ambassador but that a formal announcement will not come until the Bush administration agrees to accept him. Both Mr. Martin and Mr. McKenna are members of Canada’s Liberal Party.

Although Canada has sent career diplomats to Washington, most U.S. ambassadors to Canada have been political appointees. The current ambassador, Paul Cellucci, is a former Republican governor of Massachusetts.

Mr. McKenna, 56, served as premier of New Brunswick from 1987 to 1997 and stepped down to take positions in the corporate world. He serves on the board of directors of General Motors of Canada Ltd. and the Bank of Montreal. He is chairman of the board of the CanWest Global Communications Corp.

The Globe and Mail said the selection of Mr. McKenna “suggests a view in Mr. Martin’s entourage that the Washington job requires the kind of political skills not easily found in career diplomats.”

Mr. Martin also is repairing the damage done to U.S.-Canada relations by Jean Chretien, who as prime minister was an outspoken critic of U.S. policies in Iraq.

Mr. Kergin has been ambassador here since October 2000.

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

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