Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Relief for Mexico

The United States will donate $100,000 to help Mexico recover from Hurricane Wilma on top of the $200,000 distributed to the victims of Hurricane Stan, which pounded Mexico’s Gulf coast earlier this month.

“This relief assistance will be delivered to the Mexican Red Cross on behalf of the American people,” U.S. Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. said this week.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by the storm, for the families of those who died and for those who are working to bring aid and comfort to all of the victims.”

Wilma killed six persons in Mexico and battered the resort areas on the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm, with winds that reached 120 miles per hour, dumped more than 60 inches of rain on the area.

The ambassador also announced the creation of a U.S. Embassy task force to help stranded American tourists. Information on the embassy relief effort can be found on its Web site (https://mexico.usembassy.gov).

Mr. Garza noted the response from Mexico to the U.S. victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“The unprecedented support from Mexico for the victims of Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the deep friendship between our two nations and the generosity of our neighbor,” he said.

Slovak update

Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan will make a quick visit to Washington on Friday for talks with senior administration officials, the Slovak Embassy said yesterday.

Mr. Kukan will meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley to give them an update on political conditions in Slovakia as it prepares for parliamentary elections in six months.

He also is expected to discuss Slovakia serving on the U.N. Security Council. His country takes its seat for a two-year term in January.

Mr. Kukan will also review Slovakia’s contribution to the redevelopment of Afghanistan, where 57 Slovak troops are serving, and to the war in Iraq, where 104 Slovak soldiers are engaged in the dangerous job of defusing land mines.

Sudan’s learning curve

The conflict in Sudan is testing the abilities of the European Union and the African Union to show they can respond to human tragedies, according to the International Crisis Group.

In a new report, the group calls for more peacekeepers and increased funding for the African Union’s mission in the Darfur region of Sudan, where rebels clash with militias with ties to the government while hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the crossfire. The group said that neither side is respecting a cease-fire.

“The security situation in Darfur will continue to worsen, and the political process will remain stalemated, unless the African Union Mission in Sudan is armed with more troops, a more robust mandate and assured new funding,” the group stated.

“Darfur, where at least 200,000 have died and 2 million have been displaced, is a litmus test for the EU and the AU, as they take on larger political roles in Africa and beyond.”

The EU allocated more than $250 million to fund the African Union’s mission in Sudan, but the money is “almost exhausted and needs to be replenished,” the group said.

“The EU/AU relationship on Darfur involves a mutually steep learning curve. It has been generally successful from a technical point of view, although coordination within and between each could be much improved,” the group added.

“However, the security situation is worsening, with none of the parties fully respecting the cease-fire, and the political process is stalled.”

The group recommended a NATO “bridging force” as a temporary measure to increase the authorized size of the African Union mission to 7,731 troops. The deployment of African troops into Sudan is “happening too slowly,” and the approved level of troops is too small, it said. The group estimated that 12,000 to 15,000 soldiers and police officers are needed immediately.

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

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