- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

GAO report faults public-diplomacy plan

State Department efforts to reach more than 1.5 billion Muslims in 58 countries to counter anti-American criticism lack a strong central message and a strategic plan of communication, the Government Accountability Office said yesterday.

Last year, the department spent $597 million on public diplomacy under the direction of Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, and spending is scheduled to increase this year.

There is a shortage of officers, though, and tours of duty at posts in the Muslim world are shorter than elsewhere. As many as 30 percent of those public-diplomacy posts are filled by officers with limited language skills, compared with 24 percent elsewhere, said Congress’ investigative arm.

IRAN

Harvard-educated writer arrested

TEHRAN — Prominent Iranian philosopher and writer Ramin Jahanbegloo has been arrested on unspecified charges, judiciary officials said yesterday.

Deputy Tehran Prosecutor Mahmoud Salarkia told the Iranian Students News Agency that Mr. Jahanbegloo was being held in the capital’s notorious Evin prison, where most of Iran’s jailed political dissidents are held.

Mr. Jahanbegloo, educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and Harvard University, also holds Canadian citizenship.

CHINA

Second bishop named without Vatican OK

BEIJING — A battle between Beijing and the Vatican over control of church posts flared yesterday as China’s state-backed Catholic church installed another bishop without papal blessing.

Liu Xinhong was consecrated bishop of Wuhu in the eastern province of Anhui at the city’s Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, an official in the cathedral office said. But like the priest who became bishop of Kunming in China on Sunday, Bishop Liu took the step without the Vatican’s mandate.

BOLIVIA

Oil firms review investment plans

LA PAZ — Oil companies in Bolivia reassessed their investment plans yesterday as regional leaders prepared for an emergency summit to discuss President Evo Morales’ nationalization of the energy industry.

In the poor city of El Alto, indigenous healers offered up coca leaves in traditional ceremonies to cheer Mr. Mor- ales for seizing control of oil and gas fields from foreign companies, signaling the strong domestic support for his decision.

But the leftist’s action alarmed investors and worried Bolivia’s South American neighbors. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva downplayed any diplomatic friction between the two countries over Mr. Morales’ decision.

Today, Mr. Morales is expected to meet with Mr. Lula da Silva, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazu to discuss the impact of the new energy rules.

NORTH KOREA

Group said to plan defection to U.S.

SEOUL — A group of 10 North Koreans in Southeast Asian countries are staying at U.S. embassies and want to make a rare defection to the United States, South Korea’s public broadcaster reported yesterday.

North Korean defectors typically head to South Korea, where they are granted automatic citizenship and given assistance to help them settle in the country.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited a U.S. official as saying there are about eight North Koreans at the U.S. embassies in Southeast Asia seeking refuge in the United States.

NEPAL

Government agrees to rebels’ truce

KATMANDU — Nepal’s new government announced yesterday an indefinite truce to match a cease-fire declared by Maoist insurgents and said it would seek the withdrawal of Interpol arrest warrants against rebel leaders.

The new Cabinet of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala — appointed after King Gyanendra bowed to weeks of protests — would also remove the “terrorist” tag on the rebels, a Cabinet spokesman said.

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO

EU breaks off accession talks

BELGRADE — The European Union broke off talks with Serbia and Montenegro yesterday after it failed to hand over genocide suspect Gen. Ratko Mladic to the United Nations’ war crimes tribunal.

The U.N. prosecutor also suggested sanctions should be considered.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, who headed the negotiating team for EU accession, resigned, saying the Belgrade government’s failure to arrest Gen. Mladic and the resulting suspension of EU talks was a “betrayal of the Serbian people.”

Mladic is charged with genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims and more than 10,000 deaths in the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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