- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

Mali committed

As he prepared for his trip to Africa, President Bush this week met with the president of Mali, considered a key ally in the war against terrorism in West Africa.

In his White House visit, President Amadou Toumani Toure said he re-emphasized his government’s support of the United States in the war against Islamist extremism. More than 90 percent of Mali’s 12.5 million citizens are Muslims, but the country has been targeted by terrorists operating out of the Sahel, a vast region of the Sahara Desert that also borders Chad, Mauritania and Niger.

“The president and I spent a fair amount of time talking about the dangers of radicals and extremists associated with groups like al Qaeda,” Mr. Toure told the Voice of America in an interview broadcast yesterday.

Mr. Toure also applauded Mr. Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and for his Millennium Challenge Account program to fight poverty. Mali is due to receive more than $460 million through the program over a five-year period.

“Mali is a leading partner in the global war on terrorism,” the State Department said in an annual report on economic and political conditions in the country.

Mr. Bush leaves today on a visit to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia.

U.S. ‘spy’ banned

The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia agreed this week to ban a security adviser from re-entering the South American country after the leftist government accused him of trying to recruit an American student to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans working in Bolivia.

In a three-hour meeting Wednesday with government officials, Ambassador Philip Goldberg promised that the adviser, Vincent Cooper, will not return to Bolivia from Washington, where he was reassigned in December.

John Alexander van Schaick, a Fulbright scholar studying in Bolivia, last week told reporters that Mr. Cooper tried to recruit him to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in the country for medical or literacy training, according to reports from Bolivia.

Mr. Goldberg tried to downplay the diplomatic scandal, telling reporters, “We always intend to improve relations between the United States and Bolivia and, for that reason, it is important to move beyond this.”

However, Government Minister Alfredo Rada was more direct. He told reporters that Mr. Goldberg “communicated officially” that Mr. Cooper “will not return to Bolivia.”

Meanwhile, Bolivia yesterday confirmed it has filed espionage charges against Mr. Cooper.

Gypsy mission

A delegation from a congressional human rights panel will leave Monday on a trip to the Czech and Slovak republics to investigate reports of discrimination against Gypsies.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, will be joined by co-chairman Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, and three other House Democrats: Michael R. McNulty and Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Hilda L. Solis of California.

In the Czech Republic on Tuesday, they will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, Senate President Premysl Sobotka and Human Rights Minister Dzamila Stehlikova. In the Slovak Republic on Wednesday, they will hold talks with Prime Minister Robert Fico and Foreign Minister Jan Kubis.

The European Union has criticized both countries over accusations that they discriminate against Gypsy children by sending them to ethnic schools or institutions for children with learning disabilities.

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


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