Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Ukrainian promoted

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma yesterday promoted his ambassador in Washington to the post of foreign minister in a move interpreted as an attempt to improve relations with the United States.

The appointment of Kostyantyn Gryshchenko was announced in Kiev and in a one-line update to the ambassador’s resume on the Ukrainian Embassy’s Web site (www.ukremb.com).

Mr. Gryshchenko was appointed ambassador to the United States in January 2000 and immediately found himself defending Mr. Kuchma’s 1999 election. Many Western observers complained of election fraud. Within two years, relations had worsened because of suspicions in the Bush administration that Ukraine had sold a sophisticated radar system to Iraq in violations of United Nations sanctions.

Mr. Gryshchenko, in an Embassy Row interview last year, denied the sale of the Kolchuga radar system and dismissed a reputed secret tape recording in which Mr. Kuchma appeared to approve the sale.

“At the very least, [the tape] was doctored,” he said, adding that Ukraine was put in the position of trying to prove it did not sell the system to Iraq.

“We can’t prove a negative,” he added.

In Kiev, observers said the selection of Mr. Gryshchenko was a move toward improved relations with Washington. The ambassador supported the United States in the war against Saddam Hussein, and Ukraine has sent 1,650 troops to help stabilize Iraq.

His appointment “was clearly aimed at ending strains with Washington,” the Reuters news agency said in a dispatch from Ukraine.

“Analysts said Kuchma clearly felt it was time to try to boost ties with the West to save Ukraine from becoming a gray zone between Russia and the European Union, which is due to expand eastward next year,” Reuters said.

Mr. Gryshchenko, 49, served as ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands from August 1998 until he took up the post here. He served as deputy foreign minister from 1995 to 1998.

Popular in Japan

The new spokesman for the Japanese Embassy yesterday said most Japanese political observers believe Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will be re-elected as head of his Liberal Democratic Party later this month, which will ensure him another term as the head of government.

“The media is predicting victory for Mr. Koizumi,” spokesman Katsuro Nagai told editors and reporters over lunch at The Washington Times.

Mr. Nagai, a former member of the prime minister’s press office, also said Mr. Koizumi remains personally popular among Japanese voters.

His approval rating rose to 57.7 percent in an opinion poll published yesterday in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. Sixty-six percent also favored his re-election at his party’s Sept. 20 convention.

Chocolate makers’

A State Department official yesterday laughingly dismissed the attempts by four European nations to form a defense force outside the realm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He called them “chocolate makers” and then quickly apologized, our correspondent Sharon Behn reported.

Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany met in April and agreed to a proposal to set up a European military planning and command staff independent of NATO.

Asked about the proposed defense force, spokesman Richard Boucher feigned ignorance.

“I’m not quite sure what proposal that is,” he said. “You mean the one from the four countries that got together and had a little bitty summit … the chocolate makers?”

Mr. Boucher quickly apologized for the reference, saying he had heard the group being described that way in the press.

He said the United States is a strong supporter of the European Union, but believes that EU moves to create its own military and security capabilities should be done in cooperation with NATO.

“We’ve worked very closely with European governments, particularly in this administration, to work out the arrangements to do that, and we think that’s quite sufficient,” he said. “We don’t understand why they need more military headquarters or training colleges.”

EU countries also are divided over the proposal.

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

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