- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hague court praised

The United States yesterday praised the International Criminal Court for pressuring ruthless Ugandan rebels into peace talks, even though the Bush administration is a fierce critic of the tribunal.

“The ICC is not a hurdle to the talks; instead, it is the reason why we have peace talks today,” Steven Browning, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, told reporters in Kampala, the capital of the central African nation.

Mr. Browning said the ICC’s war-crimes indictments against Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and four top aides was the reason rebel representatives were attending talks with Ugandan officials in Juba, Sudan. The rebels hope a negotiated end to the 19-year-old civil war will include amnesty for their indicted leaders.

“All earlier efforts failed,” Mr. Browning said, according to Agence France-Presse. “What is new that this current process is somehow succeeding? The ICC is the new thing in the process.”

He added, “The U.S. is very pleased to see the talks getting under way and the engagement of the rebels and the government in order to end the fighting.”

The United States has been suspicious of the court since it was established in 1998. The Clinton administration voted against the creation of the court, headquartered in The Hague, but later signed on to the treaty that authorized it. President Clinton, however, never submitted the treaty for Senate ratification.

President Bush pulled out of the treaty with bipartisan support in Congress because of fears that the court could be abused and expose U.S. troops or officials to political show trials.

In addition to the Ugandan rebel leader, the ICC last year indicted deputy leader Vincent Otti and rebel commanders Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen. They are wanted in more than 100 countries that are part of the ICC treaty and would face trial on charges of massacres, mass abductions, mutilations and rape.

The Ugandan government has offered to ask the ICC to drop the charges if the rebels sign a peace treaty, but the rebel negotiators are pressing for the charges to be dropped first.

Afghan ‘road show’

Afghanistan’s new minister for commerce and industry appealed to business executives across the United States in an ambitious quest for investment in a country still struggling against a stubborn insurgency and the economic ravages of the brutal Taliban regime.

“We are undergoing serious reforms within the Ministry of Commerce and Industries to ensure an accountable and able staff to meet the growing needs of both domestic and foreign business in Afghanistan,” Mir Muhammad Amin Farhang said at an investment conference in Washington. “We encourage U.S. companies to visit and seek opportunities for investing in our country.”

He was joined at the U.S.-Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez; R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs; and Robert Mosbacher, president of the Overseas Private Investment Corp.

During other meetings in Washington, Mr. Farhang promoted the concept of reconstruction opportunity zones to target investment and provide duty-free access to the U.S. market for designated Afghan products.

“We welcome the creation of ROZs across Afghanistan and look forward to increased interaction with the U.S. government on this matter,” he said.

After his Washington meeting on Oct. 31, Mr. Farhang embarked on what the Afghan Embassy called an “investment promotion road show” to Des Moines, Iowa; Los Angeles and New York.

He discussed agriculture in Iowa and telecommunications in New York and Los Angeles, the embassy said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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