- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ethiopia’s complaint

The top diplomat at the Ethiopian Embassy is desperately trying to persuade Congress to defeat a bill he said is inspired by “rogue elements” in the country’s political opposition.

Fesseha Asghedom Tessema, the charge d’affaires, complained that the bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, would punish Ethiopia just as it is developing a genuine multiparty democracy. Mr. Smith argues that Ethiopia’s ruling party is responsible for human rights abuses and political corruption.

“It is unfortunate that Chairman Smith has been unduly influenced by rogue elements of the opposition who do not have the best interests of the Ethiopian people at heart,” Mr. Fesseha said. “For some reason, the bill he supports is one that appeases the most destructive elements in Ethiopian politics.”

Mr. Smith, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa, global human rights and international operations, said his bill demands the release of all political prisoners and would ban Ethiopian officials responsible for killing protesters from traveling to the United States. It also would suspend U.S. military cooperation with Ethiopia, except in anti-terrorism and peacekeeping operations, and would provide aid to Ethiopian human rights groups and technical assistance to the country’s courts, police and prisons.

He blamed the government for the turmoil that followed the May parliamentary elections, which sparked charges of fraud from the opposition parties and demonstrations in which riot police killed as many as 80 protesters. Opposition parties increased their share in the parliament from 12 seats to 172 seats. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front claimed 372 seats.

“Ethiopia held what promised to be a breakthrough election,” Mr. Smith said last week when his bill passed his committee. “Unfortunately, the promise of the May 2005 election ended with the questionable counting of the ballots cast, delayed release of election results and subsequently in gunfire.”

Last month, Mr. Fesseha told Mr. Smith’s subcommittee that democracy has taken root in Ethiopia, a country more used to military rulers and violent suppression of dissent.

“Democratization has taken a center stage in the development discourse of today’s Ethiopian politics,” he said. “Despite challenges, Ethiopia is moving in the right direction toward democratization.”

Algerian visit

Algerian Foreign Minister Mohammed Bedjaouiis due in Washington today for talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

They will discuss “the development of bilateral relations and international and regional political questions of common interest,” the Algerian government said in announcing the visit in the capital, Algiers.

Taiwan’s status quo

Taiwan must be a “peacemaker and not a troublemaker,” according to the leader of the island’s largest opposition party, who accused the government of creating tension with both China and the United States.

Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the Kuomintang party and mayor of the capital, Taipei, argued for maintaining the status quo — which he described as “one China, different interpretations” — when he addressed the Brookings Institution on a recent visit to Washington.

“Taiwan should not pursue permanent separation from China, but should also not pursue immediate unification with the mainland,” he said.

Mr. Ma blamed Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian for worsening relations with China, which claims Taiwan as a renegade province, with talk of independence and for angering the United States by disbanding a council established to deal with unification with the communist mainland.

“Mutual trust has been hurt between the U.S. and Taiwan,” Mr. Ma said. “Taiwan is trying to change the status quo, which the U.S. is against.”

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

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