Leaders' comments upset Reich
BY ERIC NURSE
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - A U.S. envoy warned Caribbean leaders to watch what they say about the war in Iraq, saying the United States was disappointed with some criticisms from the region.
Otto Reich, presidential envoy to the Western Hemisphere, said Wednesday there could be consequences to the Caribbean Community's statements against the war.
''We are very disappointed by some of the statements,'' Reich said at a news conference while in Barbados for a one-day regional business conference.
''The U.S. would appreciate a little support from its friends, or at least not to be criticized in public,'' he said.
Many countries in the 15-member Caribbean Community, also known
as Caricom, have criticized the United States for going ahead with military
action without U.N.
Regional leaders at a summit in February issued a statement detailing
their concerns about war, including rising oil prices and declines in tourism,
a major industry for
most Caribbean countries.
''We are firmly opposed to the use of force at a time when diplomatic
efforts had not yet been exhausted,'' the statement said. Since then, Caricom
has not changed its
stance. Some leaders are concerned the war will bring economic troubles.
Reich, who returned to Washington on Thursday, said such statements were unhelpful and that the United States needed support as it sent troops into battle.
''I would urge Caricom to study very carefully not only what
it says, but the consequences of what it says,'' he said, adding that the
United States would not retaliate
directly against its critics.
He said it could become more difficult to lobby the U.S. Congress for programs that benefit the Caribbean.
''What do I tell a member of Congress,'' Reich asked, 'if I go asking for increased access for Caribbean products, for example, and he says, `Well, they did not support us in our time of need.' ''