- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Communist history

The deputy prime minister of Vietnam yesterday insisted he wanted to concentrate on the future of U.S.-Vietnamese relations and move past the bitter memories of the Vietnam War.

“We want a strong Vietnam with rich people,” Vu Khoan told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “We want a strong, just and democratic society.”

However, asked how Vietnam can build such a future without a free, multiparty democracy in which political dissent is encouraged, not repressed, he gave a history lesson.

“In the 1930s and 1940s, we had many political parties. They chose to side with the enemies of the people,” he said, referring to the French colonial era. “Only the Communist Party chose to defend the people. The people recognize the historical role of the party.”

He gave no indication of whether Vietnam would ever consider a multiparty democracy.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has been the only legal party since 1975 when the former North Vietnamese government reunified the country after invading South Vietnam in violation of the 1973 Paris Accord that ended the war.

While Americans refer to the conflict as the Vietnam War, he said Vietnamese have a different name for it.

“It is called the Anti-Aggression War for National Salvation” or, informally, the “anti-American war,” he said.

Mr. Khoan, one of three deputy prime ministers, accompanied Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on his visit to Washington to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States.

Egyptian aide

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained last week about the delay in the Senate confirmation hearing of a new deputy for public diplomacy as she prepared to leave on her trip to the Middle East.

She could have used Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born Arab speaker who has charmed the Egyptian press.

“I would hope that the Senate would also release Dina Powell … because she’s being held up for what I consider to be unrelated reasons, and it would be very useful to have her here and doing that work,” Miss Rice said.

Mrs. Powell’s nomination, sent to the Senate April 29, was blocked until yesterday by Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was holding her nomination hostage to his efforts to get a Democrat reappointed to the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The committee on a voice vote sent her appointment to the full Senate for confirmation.

Mrs. Powell’s nomination attracted attention in the top ranks of the Egyptian government.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif last month called her a “brilliant professional.”

“We are happy to learn that Mrs. Powell has been nominated for that important post at the State Department,” Mr. Nazif told reporters in Cairo.

“Her Egyptian roots and cultural background will definitely help her in her new endeavor, and we are sure that when she is confirmed to her new post, she will have an impact on the American relations toward our region.”

Mrs. Powell was born Dina Habib, the daughter of an Egyptian military officer, Onsi Habib, in 1973. Her family settled in Texas when she was still a child. She is married to public relations executive Richard Powell.

She rose through the ranks of Republican politics in Texas, serving as an aide to former Rep. Dick Armey. In 1999 she became director for congressional relations at the Republican National Committee, where she made contacts with the Bush campaign.

President Bush tapped her for his transition committee in 2000 and appointed her as deputy chief of staff for presidential personnel. She is likely to serve under another Texan, Karen Hughes, one of Mr. Bush’s closet advisers. The White House is expected to send Mrs. Hughes’ nomination to the Senate later this summer.

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

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