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US rights body challenges Moldovan PM

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat has appeared before the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. agency that monitors human rights worldwide, during his first visit to Washington as premier.

In a Jan. 21 speech, Filat discussed the challenge of establishing what he called "a state of law" in his country after a decade of Communist Party rule, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, or RFE/RL's, Moldovan service reported.

Comments from the chairman of the commission, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., and his co-chairman, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., made it clear that they believe that Filat and his government have a long way to go in the establishment of a strong legal system.

In his opening statement, Filat referred to a Dec. 13 incident in which scores of Orthodox Christians in Chisinau chanted anti-Semitic slogans and tore down a large menorah - an important Jewish symbol - that had been set up in the capital's Europe Square. Cardin praised Filat's government for condemning the incident at the time. He noted, however, that the menorah was not restored to its rightful place in Europe Square, but instead placed in a much less prominent spot. Further, he said, Moldova's justice system seemed to have trivialized the incident. "I just want to express my concern that I believe the situation was not handled well by placing the menorah back up," Cardin said.

"I have to mention that the Dec. 13 incident was first of its kind to occur in Moldova since the country's independence." Filat said. The Moldovan leader promised the commission that he would share the findings of the new investigation as soon as they are available.

A Moldovan government minister meanwhile has said that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden might make an official visit to Chisinau.

Agriculture Minister Valeriu Cosarciuc, who is currently in Washington with the prime minister and other officials, told RFE/RL that a Biden visit to Moldova was discussed with Filat on Jan. 20. He did not specify when such a visit might occur. According to Cosarciuc, Moldova's new government was "well-received" by U.S. officials. (Daily News)



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