- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Denouncing Belarus

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus said yesterday that it has demanded the release of an opposition presidential candidate and four election observers, all convicted in “politically motivated” trials.

Jonathan Moore, the charge d’affaires at the embassy, and a German diplomat representing the European Union “recently carried out parallel demarches,” or diplomatic protests, over the sentencing of Aleksandr Kozulin, who challenged President Alexander Lukashenko in the March election, and Nikolai Astreiko, Timofei Dranchuk, Enira Bronitskaya and Alexander Shalaiko of the Partnership, a nongovernmental organization that attempted to monitor the vote.

Mr. Lukashenko, widely derided as the “last dictator in Europe,” won another five-year term in the election that Western monitors called fraudulent. He has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994.

In a statement on the embassy’s Web site (https://minsk.usembassy.gov), Mr. Moore noted “with regret” that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry refused his request for a high-level meeting to discuss the five political prisoners.

“The United States and the EU see these trials as clearly politically motivated and expressed their deep concerns at the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation and the further erosion of the democratic process in Belarus,” the embassy said.

The election observers received sentences ranging from six months to two years in a closed-door trial on Aug. 4. They were convicted of participating in an illegal organization. Mr. Kozulin was sentenced earlier to 5 years in prison for organizing a march to protest the election.

Romanian relations

President Bush established a personal relationship with Romanian President Traian Basescu when they met last month at the White House, according to the U.S. ambassador in Bucharest.

Ambassador Nicholas F. Taubman traveled to Washington for Mr. Basescu’s July 27 meeting at the Oval Office and later accompanied him to a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“President Bush is a man who greatly values personal contact in his relations with foreign leaders, and he and President Basescu have clearly established a firm basis for future cooperation, grounded in the basic belief of Romanians and Americans in the support of freedom and democracy in the world,” Mr. Taubman said in a report on the visit, posted on the U.S. Embassy Web site (https://bucharest.usembassy.gov).

The ambassador said he was impressed by the “excellent rapport between the two presidents and the frank and open way they exchanged points of view.” Mr. Bush and Mr. Basescu discussed the war in Lebanon, which was in its second week when they met, as well as bilateral issues such as U.S. visa requirements for Romanians visiting the United States.

Mr. Bush also thanked Mr. Basescu for contributing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Dutch treat

The Embassy of the Netherlands is planning an exhibition of photographs and paintings of New Orleans to commemorate the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The exhibition will open next week in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.

The display, titled “Seeing is believing, Seeing is healing,” includes works from artists Marsha Ercegovic, Elizabeth Kleinveld and David Rae Morris, who documented the suffering and determination of the hurricane survivors. The exhibition runs from Aug. 21 through Sept. 1.

The Netherlands sent a frigate to help in hurricane relief efforts last year and arranged for Dutch specialists to visit the city to give advice on rebuilding the levees. With much of the Netherlands below sea level, the Dutch have a long history of holding back the sea and fighting floods.

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

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