- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AFGHAN ‘MATURITY’

Afghans will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the country’s independence Wednesday and defy terrorist intimidation to vote in national elections Thursday, Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad predicted.

“This month’s presidential election will demonstrate the maturity of the democratic and constitutional system that has developed in Afghanistan since 2001,” he said this week in a review of the political climate of the south Asian nation.

“It will also serve as evidence of the significant return on the investment made by Afghans and our international partners to build a civic and democratic society in our country.”

The campaign for president, vice president and provincial legislative seats has been “extremely vibrant,” he said.

Mr. Jawad added that women are becoming increasingly active as candidates, with two among the 41 presidential candidates and seven included in the 82 vice-presidential candidates. Eighty-one women are among more than 3,000 candidates seeking 420 provincial seats. That represents a 20 percent increase over the female candidates in the 2004 and 2005 provincial elections, he said.

“This Aug. 20, Afghans will continue working for peace and solidifying the independence they claimed on Aug. 19, 1919,” the ambassador said.

“With the invaluable assistance of our American friends and the international community, we can ensure that the decades to come bring the lasting peace and opportunity Afghans have long sought.”

Afghanistan’s 5,000-year history is punctuated with foreign occupiers, with Britain conquering the country in the 19th century. King Amanullah Khan restored independence in 1919. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and occupied the country for 10 years. Factional fighting among Afghan warlords followed the Soviet retreat, giving rise to the brutal Taliban rule.

The United States overthrew the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because the regime protected Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Today, more than 100,000 allied troops, including 62,000 Americans, are fighting a Taliban resurgence and trying to stabilize the country.

RICE TO CHINA

Like selling ice cubes to eskimos, Arkansas rice farmers are eyeing China as a potential market for the state’s most famous grain.

However, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong told Arkansan business leaders that his country produces all the rice it needs, at least for now. China also exports 38 percent of the world’s rice, he said.

On a visit to Little Rock earlier this month, Mr. Zhou, nevertheless, told rice growers that one day China might be a market for them.

“Keep trying, and you’ll be able to sell Arkansas rice in China,” he said in a speech to the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. “I wish you success.”

Arkansas exports more than $320 million in goods to China, making the nation Arkansas’ third-largest foreign market behind Canada and Mexico.

The ambassador told the chamber that China wants to cooperate with the United States on trade issues and insisted that his country poses no threat to Americans.

“More Americans now perceive China as a positive opportunity rather than a threat,” he said.

DIPLOMATIC DEFINITION

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat. The problem is entirely the same in both cases: to know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.” - Oscar Wilde

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

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