- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Working with Ortega

The State Department yesterday pledged to seek “positive relations” with Nicaragua’s president-elect, Daniel Ortega, the former Marxist rebel who, U.S. diplomats warned before Sunday’s election, has “not changed his stripes.”

“We respect the decision of the Nicaraguan people,” said State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, adding that U.S. cooperation with Mr. Ortega’s Sandinista party will be “based on their action in support of Nicaragua’s democratic future.”

Mr. Ortega, who overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, won with about 38 percent of the ballots in an election in which conservative votes were split between two candidates.

As of yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua still had not updated its statement on the election posted Sunday evening, in which it noted “some anomalies in the electoral process.”

“We are therefore not in a position at this time to make an overall judgment on the fairness and transparency of the process,” said the U.S. observer team of Ambassador Paul Trivelli, Bennett Johnson, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana, and William Paxon, a former Republican congressman from New York.

Before the election, Mr. Trivelli complained that the Sandinistas had “hijacked” Nicaraguan democracy and warned that Mr. Ortega “is a tiger that has not changed his stripes.”

In Washington, the Heritage Foundation conceded that the United States “can do nothing to change the outcome” of the election.

“However, wise policy choices can help sustain positive relations, press Ortega’s administration to keep basic democratic promises, contain foreign adventures and promote the rule of law and liberal market reforms in the face of possible inclinations to restore a dictatorial grip,” Heritage analyst Stephen Johnson said.

Poland moving on

Poland and the United States are trying to repair damage done by a U.S. diplomat’s reported complaint about a top Polish official’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

Ambassador Victor Ashe and Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga met late Tuesday to discuss reports that Kenneth Hillas, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy, suggested that Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych be fired.

“They had a good exchange of views. We’re moving on from it,” embassy spokesman Andrew Schilling told the Associated Press in Warsaw.

Mr. Giertych argued against the war in remarks in parliament last week and demanded to know “how many innocent victims have died in Iraq over the past three years.”

A Polish newspaper reported this week on an internal government memo describing a conversation between Mr. Hillas and an aide to the prime minister, who quoted Mr. Hillas as saying, “If a deputy prime minister in Germany, France or Denmark said that, he would be fired.”

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski complained that Mr. Hillas had “overstepped the norms of governing relations between two sovereign nations.”

Afghan upgrade

The Afghan Embassy has updated its Web site to include broader news and information about the country that has been called a “front line” in the war on terrorism.

The site (www.embassyofafghanistan.org) features links to the office of President Hamid Karzai, as well as other government Web pages, an updated biography of Ambassador Said T. Jawad and the text of the Afghan Constitution.

The embassy Web page allows travelers to download visa applications and other documents needed for visiting Afghanistan.

“You can consult our extensive travel section for information on sites of interest, travel agencies, accommodations, hotels, beauty salons and restaurant,” said embassy spokesman Joshua Gross.

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

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