- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

‘Vindictive campaign’

The Embassy of Eritrea yesterday accused the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs of waging a “personal and vindictive campaign” against the nation on the Horn of Africa, which the State Department accuses of supporting terrorism and abusing human rights.

The embassy denounced Jendayi Frazer for her testimony last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she declared that Eritrea is sheltering and training separatist rebels from its rival neighbor Ethiopia and generally “destabilizing” the region.

“It’s domestic human rights record remains deplorable and is steadily declining,” Miss Frazer added.

The embassy claimed to be “dismayed” by her March 11 testimony.

“This latest act is in continuation of Frazer’s two-years long, unwarranted defamation and vilification campaigns against the government of Eritrea,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Frazer’s personal and vindictive crusade is partly explained by a string of failures in her misguided policies in the region. …”

The embassy also charged that Miss Frazer took sides with Ethiopia in a tense standoff over a long-running border conflict. The embassy noted that an independent commission, which studied the claims of both countries, awarded disputed territory to Eritrea.

The embassy criticized Miss Frazer for meeting with an opposition coalition that Eritrea called an “assortment of subversive groups sponsored and trained by the Ethiopian regime with the avowed aim of ‘violently overthrowing’ the government of Eritrea.”

In her testimony, Miss Frazer accused Eritrea of “hosting” a Somali militant named Hassan Dahir Aweys, whom both the United States and the United Nations consider a terrorist.

Eritrea also supports “Somali extremist groups” and separatist Ethiopian rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, Miss Frazer said.

“The government of the state of Eritrea has pursued a widespread strategy of fomenting instability throughout the Horn of Africa and privately undermined nearly all efforts for a broad-based, inclusive dialogue and reconciliation in the region,” she said.

‘Lofty goals’

The Hungarian ambassador displayed his oratorical skills yesterday as he compared the pursuit of visa-free travel to the United States to Hungary’s revolution of 1848, when the country rose up against the Hapsburg Empire.

“This past weekend, Hungarians here and back home celebrated the 160th anniversary of our 1848 revolution, whose main goals were liberty, equality and fraternity,” Ambassador Ferenc Somogyi said. “With some flexibility, I think that these lofty goals are also somehow reflected in what we, together with our American friends, are working for.”

He noted that “liberty manifests itself in the freedom to travel” and that “equality means equal access to each other’s countries, as well as not to be considered as second-class members of the European Union.”

The citizens of most of the Eastern European nations that joined the EU after the collapse of communism still must obtain visas before traveling to the United States, while Western European EU nations do not.

Mr. Somogyi joined Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in signing a memorandum of understanding that commits the United States to helping Hungary qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, under which foreigners can visit the United States for up to 90 days without the travel documents.

Mr. Chertoff has signed similar agreements with the Czech Republic, Estonia and Lithuania.

The ambassador thanked Mr. Chertoff and President Bush for their help in supporting Hungary’s quest.

“We know that where we are now is not yet the end of the road,” Mr. Somogyi said, calling the signing ceremony “a very tangible result of our joint efforts.”

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

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