- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

THAWING THE FREEZE

Israel’s new ambassador to the United States is confident of working out a compromise on Israeli settlements on the West Bank that is acceptable to President Obama, who has called for a freeze on the construction of Israeli homes on land claimed by Palestinians.

“I definitely foresee a situation in which we narrow the gap between the Israeli and American positions,” Ambassador Michael Oren told Israel’s Army Radio in Jerusalem this week. “In my opinion, the gap is becoming smaller and smaller.”

Mr. Obama, in a speech in Egypt earlier this month, called on Israel to cease building settlements on the West Bank.

“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he said. “It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Mr. Oren, in an interview with Reuters news agency Tuesday, said officials in Jerusalem and Washington have suggested “creative” proposals to address U.S. concerns and meet contractual obligations in Israel. However, he offered no further details.

“This is a country of law, and citizens of the state of Israel have rights under the law,” he said. “If a person has purchased a house, if a person has taken out a contract for building a house, if a corporation is involved in a construction activity, the Israeli government does not have a right under Israeli law to stop them.”

Mr. Oren said Israeli courts would also likely rule against any government attempt to block those contract rights.

ORTEGA’S BLUSTER

Nicaragua’s leftist president, Daniel Ortega, is accusing U.S. diplomats of stirring up opposition to his government, while some of his top officials are calling for the expulsion of U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan.

Mr. Ortega’s outrage at the U.S. Embassy followed Washington’s decision last week to cancel $62 million in aid to the government after accusations that Mr. Ortega’s Sandinista party stole 40 mayoral elections in November. The money was the final installment of a $175 million aid package from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corp.

Mr. Ortega announced Saturday that Nicaragua would receive $50 million from the anti-American government of Venezuela under a leftist trade pact, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, under its Spanish initials.

“Thank God we have ALBA,” Mr. Ortega said at a political rally in the capital, Managua.

He also accused unnamed U.S. diplomats of meeting with Sandinista “enemies,” calling such contacts a crime.

“We will continue to document [the contacts] and make a decision about it when the time is right,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy has denied any illegal activity.

Mr. Ortega first came to power after the 1979 Sandinista revolution and was defeated in a democratic election for president in 1990. He won re-election in 2006.

POLITICAL PRISONER

The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam criticized the communist government Tuesday for jailing a prominent human rights lawyer and called for his immediate release.

“No individual should be arrested for expressing the right to free speech, and no lawyer should be punished because of the individuals they chose to represent,” the embassy said in a statement released to reporters in the capital, Hanoi.

Vietnamese police arrested Le Cong Dinh, 41, on Saturday and charged him with criticizing the government. In 2007, Mr. Dinh represented two human rights activists, who were convicted of distributing propaganda against the government.

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


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