- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

Denouncing Iran

A leading Republican on the House intelligence committee denounced Iran for arresting an Iranian-American scholar from a Washington think tank and called the government’s action proof that the theocracy “engages in hostage-taking and is flouting the rule of law.”

“There is no reason for the government of Iran to have detained Dr. [Haleh] Esfandiari,” Rep. Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico said in a letter to Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Yesterday, the regime formally charged Mrs. Esfandiari with trying to overthrow the government.

Mrs. Wilson said that Mrs. Esfandiari’s arrest is the “most prominent recent case of unjustified detention, but not the only one.” She cited the arrest in January of Parnaz Azima, a journalist for the U.S.-supported Radio Farda, and accused Iran of targeting Americans because the United States supports human rights for Iranians repressed by the autocratic regime.

“The deliberate detention of American citizens by the government of Iran in retaliation for the U.S. government’s support for human rights in Iran only serves to prove to the international community and to the Iranian people that the government of Iran engages in hostage-taking and is flouting the rule of law,” Mrs. Wilson said.

“Dr. Esfandiari and other Americans being detained by Iran should be immediately released and allowed to return to the United States.”

The May 15 letter, released by her office yesterday, is part of a global effort to bring pressure on Iran to free Mrs. Esfandiari, an Iran specialist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was detained Dec. 30 while visiting her mother in Tehran. Mrs. Esfandiari was recently incarcerated in Evin Prison, a notorious detention center where dissidents have been tortured and killed.

Last week, Swanee Hunt, U.S. ambassador to Austria under President Clinton, announced that the Web site Free Haleh (www.freehaleh.org) has collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition demanding her release. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, have introduced a resolution calling for Mrs. Esfandiari’s release.

Portal to diplomacy

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte called the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which celebrated its 60th anniversary yesterday, “the portal to American diplomacy.”

The Arlington-based institute is the main training facility for all U.S. diplomats, as well as government officials outside the State Department who accept assignments at diplomatic missions abroad. The institute offers classes in 70 languages and 250 other subjects.

“Much of what FSI does today bears little resemblance to the training it provided in 1947,” said Mr. Negroponte, who first attended the institute when he joined the Foreign Service in 1960. “When FSI opened its doors, it offered instruction in only 13 languages.”

He spoke at a celebration on the institute’s sprawling campus in front of students, teachers and U.S. and foreign diplomats.

The institute’s introductory class for new Foreign Service officers has been criticized in recent years for being heavy on bureaucracy and light on diplomacy. Some changes have been made to add more substance, officials said.

Elephants with peppers

The uncertainty over Paul Wolfowitz’s successor as president of the World Bank will not affect one of the bank’s more innovative projects to be showcased in Washington this week: the Development Marketplace competition. This year’s contest features prizes of up to $200,000 to winners, to be chosen from 104 finalists from 42 countries.

Entrants include one project in Africa to stop elephant stampedes with chili pepper and another that uses wood from an invasive tree species to make inexpensive coffins.

Winners are to be announced at 4 p.m. tomorrow at the World Bank atrium at 1818 H St. NW.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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