- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 29, 2010

ELECTION CONFIDENCE

The new U.S. ambassador to the Philippines says he is comfortable with the preparations for next month’s elections in a country where voting violence has been common for years.

“From my understanding, he is confident we’ll have successful elections,” said Leandro Mendoza, executive secretary to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on Wednesday, describing a meeting with Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr.

Mr. Mendoza told reporters in Manila that he and Mr. Thomas had a friendly conversation that included discussions about democracy and golf. Both men are avid golfers, Mr. Mendoza said.

Mr. Thomas, who presented his diplomatic credentials to the president on Tuesday, met with Mr. Mendoza after the ceremony.

“The president actually informed the ambassador that we are prepared for these elections,” Mr. Mendoza said. “We’ll see to it that all institutions are well-provided to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections.”

He added that his meeting with Mr. Thomas was “actually a social call” by the ambassador.

“The discussion was more about golf than election preparations,” Mr. Mendoza said.

The Philippines is preparing to elect a new president and vice president, about 300 members of Congress and more than 17,600 local officials in elections on May 10.

Last week, rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the southern island of Mindanao proposed to observe a cease-fire between May 3 and 13 and pledged not to attempt to disrupt the elections.

Past elections in the Philippines have been marred by killings, kidnappings and terrorism.

BIG SPENDER

Proclaiming his innocence, Croatia’s former ambassador to the United States insisted he will appeal a guilty verdict handed down in his corruption trial in Zagreb.

Neven Jurica, who served in Washington in 2007 and 2008, was convicted of misappropriating $130,000 of government money for his personal use.

Jurica claimed the money was spent on lunches with other diplomats and on lobbying services to promote Croatia in the U.S. capital.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” Jurica said after a court sentenced him to 18 months in prison last week and banned him from working for the government for five years after his release.

“We are a small country, and being generous in entertaining people, you need matters,” the 58-year-old former diplomat said.

Jurica, who also represented Croatia at the United Nations, claimed he reimbursed the Foreign Ministry for the expenses.

The conviction is part of Croatia’s efforts to crack down on corruption as it seeks to prepare for membership in the European Union.

Damir Polancec, a former deputy prime minister, was arrested last month on corruption charges in his position as an executive at the Podravka corporation, Croatia’s top food company.

Berislav Roncevic, a former defense minister, was indicted in January on charges he profited from the purchase of army trucks.

Kolinda Grabar, the current Croatian ambassador, presented her credentials in April 2008.

FUTURE AT RISK

The U.S. ambassador to Macedonia urged the government to reach a settlement with neighboring Greece over the name of the southeast European nation.

“Macedonia’s future leaves a large question mark” unless the dispute is ended, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker said Wednesday.

Greece claims the name Macedonia as a historical reference to part of its northern province, which borders the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonia, meanwhile, refuses to change its name, also asserting a historical claim.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail [email protected]

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