- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2001

Indonesian visit

Indonesia's foreign minister is the latest official to announce plans to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Alwi Shihab is working on a schedule that would bring him to Washington between March 10 and March 13, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Mr. Shihab is expected to press Mr. Powell for the removal of an arms embargo imposed by President Clinton when violence erupted in East Timor following a vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, reports from Jakarta said.

News reports also predicted Mr. Shihab will use the visit to repair damage to U.S.-Indonesian relations caused by a diplomatic dispute between senior Indonesian government ministers and U.S. Ambassador Robert Gelbard. Critics accused him of trying to interfere in Indonesian affairs.

Powell to NATO

Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile, is planning a visit to Belgium to meet NATO foreign ministers later this month.

Mr. Powell will attend a Feb. 27 special session of the foreign ministers being organized by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday said the stop at NATO headquarters in Brussels will be added to a wider trip that will take Mr. Powell to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

"He looks forward to meeting with as many NATO foreign ministers as can get there on that day," Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Powell is expected to meet with European Commission President Romano Prodi the next day.

A NATO official told reporters in Brussels, "We're looking forward to seeing him here. It's a signal of his support."

Although no agenda was available, Mr. Powell and his counterparts are likely to discuss U.S. plans for a missile defense system, European plans for a new defense force and NATO's continued presence in the Balkans.

Diplomatic decline

Foreign policy specialists are urging President Bush to reverse a decline in spending on international affairs that is threatening the ability of U.S. diplomats to do their jobs.

The American Academy of Diplomacy wrote Mr. Bush to express "our strong belief that a talented and well-funded diplomacy, accompanied by effective intelligence and strong military forces, is central to the promotion of American interests in the uncertain world of the 21st century and that it merits your strong support."

The academy said spending on foreign affairs has declined steadily since the 1980s.

"American readiness has been eroded, risking serious limits in the capacity of our diplomatic arm in furthering U.S. foreign policy interests," the letter said.

"The academy hopes you will provide the leadership necessary in persuading the American people and the Congress of the need to reverse this downward trend."

A recent study by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Strategic and International Studies reached a similar, if more blunt, conclusion.

The State Department is in a "state of serious disrepair," suffering from "long-term mismanagement, antiquated equipment and dilapidated and insecure facilities," said that report, which also called for more funding.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has warned that the $15 billion foreign-operations bill is too little to cover personnel costs and construction repairs that were identified during the Clinton administration.

The academy letter was written by the top board members, Joseph J. Sisco, a former assistant secretary of state; Arthur Hartman, a former ambassador to the Soviet Union; Leonard Marks, the first director of the U.S. Information Agency; and L. Bruce Laingen, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979 when it was taken over by militants who held 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

They also offered Mr. Bush advice on selecting ambassadors, urging the appointment of diplomats with "unquestioned integrity, personal discretion and self-discipline" with "demonstrated …experience in foreign affairs."

They called diplomacy "the country's first line of defense."

"There is no substitute for the counsel and advice an active and wise ambassador … can provide you and the secretary of state," they added.

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