- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hungary loses friend

The Hungarian ambassador yesterday mourned the death of Rep. Tom Lantos, a Hungarian native who rose to one of the highest positions in Congress after surviving the Holocaust and fighting in the anti-Nazi underground.

“Congressman Lantos opposed dictatorships and authoritarian rule, irrespective of whether led by left- or right-wing extremists,” Ambassador Ferenc Somogyi said. “He fought all his life for freedom and democracy.”

Mr. Lantos, California Democrat, was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when he died of cancer yesterday at age 80.

His life inspired Hungarians under communism and Europeans under Soviet domination during the Cold War, Mr. Somogyi said. As a teenager, Mr. Lantos escaped twice from Nazi labor camps in Hungary, joined the resistance and later fled from a postwar, Soviet-controlled Hungary.

“Tom Lantos was known to be the most energetic congressman, who used his dynamism and strength relentlessly to serve everyone’s right to liberty and democracy, regardless of their nationality, race, religion, age or gender,” Mr. Somogyi said.

“I have lost a good friend. My wife, Andrea, and the entire staff of the Hungarian Embassy share this sorrow.”

Ambassador John Bruton, the European Union’s representative in the United States, added, “Europeans everywhere owe him a great debt for his persistent opposition to oppression and for his contribution to the ultimate overthrow of communism.”

Vote for Pakistan

The Pakistani ambassador yesterday overwhelmed reporters with raw numbers.

A nation recovering from widespread political chaos, terrorist attacks and a high-level political assassination intends to hold elections next week with 7,335 candidates running from 50 political parties with 81 million voters casting ballots at more than 64,000 precincts with 170,000 polling booths.

“We know that the eyes of the world will be fixed on Pakistan next Monday when the voting happens,” Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani told reporters at the National Press Club.

“No matter who wins the federal- and the provincial-level upcoming elections, they are a crucial step on Pakistan’s road to full democracy,” he added. “We believe that liberal democracy is the best antidote against extremism and terrorism.”

Political unrest has plagued Pakistan since March, when President Pervez Musharraf dismissed top judges who were expected to challenge his continued rule. He declared a state of emergency in November. Protests erupted again after assassins killed popular former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Dec. 27. Mr. Musharraf postponed the national elections, which originally were scheduled for Jan. 8.

Mr. Durrani yesterday pledged that the elections will be held as scheduled next week.

“I can assure you there will be no further delay,” he said.

The ambassador added that his government welcomes international observers and foreign correspondents to cover the elections, which, he predicted, will be the most transparent in Pakistan’s history.

An independent election commission will use 430,000 transparent and tamperproof ballot boxes and 300,000 portable screens to ensure secret voting. Pakistan’s electoral rolls are computerized and posted on the election commission’s Web site.

Political parties will have poll watchers who will observe the vote counting at the precincts, where presiding electoral officers will announce the results.

“This is an enormous step towards transparency,” Mr. Durrani said.

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

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