- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Looking for an embassy
The foreign minister of the ousted government of Afghanistan finds it difficult enough to get help from Washington in its struggle to hold its pockets of resistance to the medieval rule of the Taliban militia.
But Abdullah Abdullah is just as frustrated when he tries to persuade the State Department to reopen the Afghan Embassy, which was closed in 1997 after the Islamic fundamentalist rebels overthrew the government.
Mr. Abdullah, in a recent visit to The Washington Times, noted that the United Nations still recognizes his government, led by President Burhanuddin Rabbani. It has 32 ambassadors around the world and formal relations with more than 180 countries.
"I dont think we deserve this," Mr. Abdullah said of the treatment from the State Department.
After all, Mr. Abdullah and many officials of the ousted government were members of the U.S.-backed Afghan resistance during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
The State Department closed the embassy in August 1997, after a dispute broke out between two Afghan diplomats. The charge daffaires, Yar Mohammad Mohabbat, supported the government, while the embassys second-ranking diplomat, Seraj Wardak, backed the Taliban, which controlled most of the country.
Mr. Abdullah said the government still pays about $2,000 a month in mortgage and maintenance on the embassy at 2341 Wyoming Ave. NW and on four condominiums in suburban Maryland.
At least one member of Congress has taken up their cause.
Rep. Philip S. English is urging the State Department to reopen the embassy as a way to encourage democracy in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban have terrorized its citizens through its strict Islamic rule, denial of womens rights, inconsistent cooperation with international relief organizations, drug growing, cultivation and trafficking and hosting the terrorists Osama bin Ladin and associated terrorist training camps," the Pennsylvania Republican wrote in March.
"While our government has not taken an official stance on this issue, I believe the cause of strengthening democracy in Afghanistan would be greatly aided by allowing Rabbani to reopen the embassy.
"We have long maintained that the best way to open the eyes of a nation to democracy is to expose them to our democratic ways."
The State Department said the United States recognizes no Afghan faction as the government.
"We believe … that there is no basis for allowing any of these factions to take control of Afghan diplomatic property in our custody," said Michael E. Guest, acting assistant secretary of legislative affairs.
Mr. Guest noted that the State Department allows the Rabbani government to operate a consulate in New York to assist Afghan citizens in the United States.
"We hope to see one day the establishment of a broad-based representative government in Afghanistan that serves the interests of all Afghans and which would be able to reopen the embassy," he said.

Sharon plans visit
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon plans to visit Washington next week for meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the White House said yesterday.
They will discuss efforts to maintain a cease-fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian demonstrators and other Middle East issues, spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
"The presidents hope is that the cease-fire will continue to take hold, that the violence will diminish, and that [an] unconditional cease-fire by both parties can be implemented," he said.
"The president continues his efforts, and those efforts will continue when the prime minister visits next week."
Mr. Sharon will visit Washington on Tuesday, as part of a planned visit to New York.

More ambassadors
President Bush yesterday said he plans to nominate ambassadors to Costa Rica, Slovenia and Uruguay.
He has selected John Danilovich, who heads a consulting group that deals with joint ventures in the United States and Europe, to be the envoy to Costa Rica.
Mr. Bush tapped career diplomat Johnny Young for Slovenia. Mr. Young, a former ambassador to Togo, is currently chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain.
Martin Silverstein, a lawyer from Philadelphia, is Mr. Bushs choice for Uruguay.

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