- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

French kiss

A high-ranking State Department official yesterday planted a big French kiss on the people of Paris, diplomatically speaking, of course, and chided Americans for foolish behavior when they dumped French wine and renamed french fries “freedom fries” after France tried to undermine the United States before the war in Iraq.

But that was another government and, it seems, another time. The election of pro-American President Nicolas Sarkozy ended the bitterness that soured relations between Washington and Paris.

“There is no question that we are entering a new period in the relationship between France and America, and there is no question it’s a dynamic, positive and optimistic period,” said R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, in a speech at the American University of Paris.

Mr. Burns, the third highest ranking official at the State Department, also criticized the response in Congress and among many Americans over France’s diplomatic maneuvering against the United States when President Bush sought support at the United Nations to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

“I surely hope that those Americans who renamed french fries into freedom fries and those Americans who poured perfectly good French wines down American drains — I hope that they realize what foolishness that was,” he said, according to news reports from Paris.

“I think that now we regret that an honest disagreement over a very important issue — whether or not to go to war — was taken to such lengths by so many people in our country.”

In the weeks before a crucial U.N. debate in January 2003, French officials indicated they were willing to support some sort of military intervention to disarm Iraq. However, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell sought a crucial U.N. resolution specifically authorizing force, France threatened to veto the measure.

A Washington Post report at the time called the French move a “diplomatic version of an ambush.”

President flexible

The president of Uganda was coy when reporters from The Washington Times asked him whether he would run for a fourth elected term in 2012.

“My political party will decide who should run and why. It is up to the team,” Yoweri Museveni told our correspondents Tom Carter and Cajsa Collins this week.

A constitutional amendment in 2005 removed presidential term limits to allow him to run for a third time. He first came to power as the head of a rebel army in 1986 and won his first term as president in 1996 in the first democratic elections in 17 years. He was re-elected in 2001 and 2006. He won his third term with more than 59 percent of the vote.

Mr. Museveni defended the elimination of term limits.

“What was removed from the constitution was unnecessary rigidity in the constitution where political management was tied down, fettered,” he said.

He pointed to Israel as an example of a nation that allows a small pool of politicians to run again and again.

“Flexibility may be of interest because you may not have a large supply of political capability, so to shut it out through ritualistic constitutional arrangements may not be wise,” he said.

After more than 20 years in power, Mr. Museveni is credited with remaking Uganda.

Mr. Museveni has “largely put an end to human rights abuses of earlier governments, initiated substantial economic liberalization and general press freedom and instituted economic reforms,” the State Department said in a country report on Uganda.

Domestic opponents, however, dispute that assessment, claiming his government is growing authoritarian and showing too little respect for human rights.

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

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