- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Kazakhstan cheered

The Bush administration is dancing a diplomatic two-step with Kazakhstan, an energy-rich Central Asian nation with a poor human rights record.

A top State Department official recently told the Kazakh ambassador that the two countries share a “dynamic relationship” and promised to promote future bilateral ties. Meanwhile, the State Department’s human rights report questioned the validity of the election of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who won 90 percent of the vote when he was elected to a third seven-year term last year, and cited a lengthy list of other abuses.

As far as Kazakh Ambassador Kanat Saudabayev is concerned, the praise is deserved.

“Economic successes in Kazakhstan allow the country to take bold steps in pursuing greater democracy,” he said at a recent Kazakh Embassy reception.

“In 15 years of independence, Kazakhstan has moved from a backward Soviet republic to a regional leader and a country spreading its positive message beyond its borders and the most stable and reliable partner and friend of the U.S. in our part of the world.”

Mr. Saudabayev told U.S. guests at the reception that his country needs U.S. support for its goal of chairing of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which criticized the presidential election for failing to meet democratic standards.

“We are also hoping our main friend and partner, the United States, will support us in our bid for OSCE chairmanship [next year] as a vote of confidence in Kazakhstan’s continued drive to democracy,” the ambassador said.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs, promised that the United States “will do everything possible to support Kazakhstan’s independence [and] Kazakhstan’s sovereignty.”

“Relations with Kazakhstan are very important to us,” he said. “It is a dynamic relationship, and we would like to see it grow.”

Kazakhstan, which has established a free-market economy, could be among the world’s top 10 oil producers by 2015 if it meets its goal of pumping 3 million barrels of oil a day.

Mr. Saudabayev noted that U.S. companies are expected to invest $100 billion in Kazakhstan within the next decade.

“The prospects for U.S. participation in the Kazakh economy grow ever brighter,” he said.

Canada applauded

The House unanimously thanked Canada for extending its military commitment in Afghanistan for another two years.

Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of Canada’s new Conservative government, for winning the approval of the House of Commons for the continuation of the mission. Mr. Harper is due to visit President Bush in Washington on July 6.

“Canada’s extension signals the renewed commitment of America’s friends and allies in the global war on terror,” said Mr. Burton, chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

“Our friends to the north should be commended and praised for their leadership in the global war on terror and thanked for their eternal friendship to the United States.”

On a vote of 409 to 0, the House last week approved a resolution applauding Canada for its decision to keep its 2,300 troops in Afghanistan through 2009. Under the previous Liberal government, they were due to have been withdrawn next year.

Legally binding

The United States and Japan yesterday finalized arrangements for their first legal assistance agreement to streamline criminal investigations and extradition requests.

U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer and Japanese Senior Vice Foreign Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda exchanged documents ratified by the U.S. and Japanese legislatures. The agreement takes effect July 21.

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


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