- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kazakh commitment

The ambassador of Kazakhstan is confident that the Washington visit of his country’s president at the end of the month will demonstrate that the former Soviet republic is a reliable U.S. partner in the war on Islamic terrorism and in the advancement of democracy.

The White House this week praised President Nursultan Nazarbayev as an “important strategic partner in Central Asia.” Spokesman Tony Snow only hinted at the country’s poor human rights record when he mentioned that President Bush will include “democracy promotion” on the agenda for the Sept. 29 meeting. Mr. Nazarbayev last year won a third seven-year term in an election widely criticized by foreign observers.

Ambassador Kanat Saudabayev noted that his energy-rich country is one of a few Muslim-majority nations supporting the United States with troops in Iraq and reminded Washington officials that Kazakhstan dismantled the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal, inherited after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan also provided support for the U.S.-led liberation of Afghanistan.

“On the eve of President Nazarbayev’s visit, we declare that we are committed to further strengthening of our strategic partnership,” Mr. Saudabayev said.

“In recent years, more people in America have come to recognize Kazakhstan as a reliable friend and partner with whom the United States has already done a lot together in the war on terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ensuring energy security and promoting freedom and democracy.”

The ambassador said Mr. Nazarbayev’s White House discussions will focus on ways the two countries can promote a “prosperous and safe future.”

“We are confident this meeting will strengthen the friendship between our nations and will see new horizons for the strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States,” Mr. Saudabayev said.

Mr. Snow on Tuesday announced the visit, saying the two presidents “will discuss a range of issues, including democracy promotion, the war on terror, energy diversification, expanding prosperity and our common commitment to working together to advance freedom and security.”

Some observers have accused Mr. Nazarbayev of using terrorism as an excuse to repress political opponents. However, Kazakhstan does have a homegrown Islamic terrorist threat in the group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was banned last year under a new law against extremism.

Assurance to India

The U.S. ambassador to India yesterday tried to assure lawmakers and business leaders that a landmark U.S.-India nuclear energy deal will win U.S. congressional approval without major changes that could undercut the agreement reached by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March.

“The goalposts are not being moved,” Ambassador David C. Mulford told a U.S.-India business summit in New Delhi.

India is worried that opposition in the Senate could alter the deal and make the agreement unacceptable to India. Senate critics argue that the deal gives India vital U.S. civilian nuclear technology and other aid but does nothing to control India’s nuclear weapons program.

The House has passed the bill by a large majority. Any Senate changes would force leaders of both chambers to reconcile the differences and submit the measure for reconsideration in both houses.

“The procedural movements and debates in American politics are often baffling to our friends around the world,” Mr. Mulford said, “but we will honor the agreement that has been reached.”

He added that he hopes the Senate will vote on the agreement this month.

“If there is Senate action, we believe there will again be a large majority,” he said.

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

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