Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Russia outraged

Russia yesterday complained to U.S. Ambassador William J. Burns about a Washington seminar last week that Moscow said promoted terrorism against the former Soviet Union.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Mr. Burns to denounce the Friday seminar organized by the Jamestown Foundation in which “calls were made for carrying out fresh terrorist attacks on Russian territory,” the government said in a statement distributed to reporters in Moscow. In Washington, the independent foundation called the charges “absurd.”

The briefing, titled “Sadullaev’s Caucasian Front: Prospects for the Next Nalchik,” referred to Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev, political leader of separatist forces in the rebellious Chechnya province, and a rebel strike on the city of Nalchik in October, when more than 100 people were killed.

“It was stressed to the ambassador that the holding of such events on U.S. territory is contrary to the international obligations of the United States in the fight against terrorism,” the ministry said.

“Such tolerance for separatist Chechen rebels also runs counter to the spirit of partnership between the two countries in anti-terrorist cooperation and is harmful to bilateral relations.”

The U.S. Embassy issued no response to the ministry’s comments.

Glen E. Howard, president of the foundation, denounced the Russian government and the state-owned ORT television station, which carried what he called a “distorted, manipulative and patently false” report on the seminar. The ministry issued its complaint after the television report aired Saturday.

“ORT’s false reporting on the Jamestown Foundation is a throwback to Soviet-style manipulation and propaganda,” he said.

Mr. Howard also blamed the Russian government for inflaming the issue.

“The notion that Jamestown and the U.S. government are promoting terrorism in Russia is not just absurd, it also shows just how paranoid the Kremlin’s repressive regime has become,” he said.

“The Russian Foreign Ministry’s protests come at a time when the Kremlin is shuttering independent media, systematically repressing human rights organizations and funding the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.”

The seminar featured Ivan Sventsistsky, coordinator of the Moscow-based Yalta Initiative for Peace in Chechnya, Andrew McGregor, director of Aberfoyle International Security in Toronto, and Mairbek Vatchagaev of the School for Advanced Social Science Studies in Paris.

Diplomatic politics

The U.S. ambassador in Nicaragua is practicing a little political diplomacy, as he tries to urge conservative parties to unite against the country’s former Marxist rulers in the November presidential election.

Ambassador Paul Trivelli told reporters this week that he met with Jose Rizo, whom he criticized two weeks ago, and other conservative candidates “to see if we can push the democratic unification of this country a little more.”

Mr. Trivelli is worried that conservatives could split their votes if several conservatives declare their candidacies and deliver the election to Daniel Ortega, a former president and leader of the Sandinista party.

“We had discussions. They are going to send us a more formal response, and we’ll see what happens,” the ambassador said in the capital, Managua, on Monday.

Mr. Rizo, the candidate of the ruling Liberal Constitutional Party, called the meeting “very positive.”

Two weeks ago, Mr. Trivelli criticized the selection of Mr. Rizo, who was handpicked by disgraced former President Arnoldo Aleman, who was convicted on corruption charges and is wanted in Panama.

Mr. Rizo is the “candidate of the party of which Aleman is the [top] leader, and the [top] leader is not only a convicted felon in Nicaragua, but the district attorney in Panama is asking for his arrest,” Mr. Trivelli told the La Prensa newspaper.

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

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