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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

PALESTINIAN MISSION

Three leading Palestinian officials are in Washington this week trying to get a message to the incoming Obama administration.

Maen Rashid Areikat, the delegation leader, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Monday that their visit is one of many they have made over the years to maintain contacts with Middle East specialists at the State Department, the National Security Council, in Congress and in foreign-policy foundations.

However, on this trip, they hope to get word to advisers to President-elect Barack Obama to build on the efforts of the Bush administration to reach a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Areikat said he realizes that the Obama transition team has many pressing domestic issues like the financial crisis and larger foreign policy challenges to prepare for.

The Obama team also is avoiding meetings with foreign officials because President Bush remains commander-in-chief and the top U.S. foreign policymaker until Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. However, using back channels through unofficial Obama allies can also work.

"Washington is an interesting place. People seem to know everybody," said Mr. Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's deputy head for negotiations with Israel.

Mr. Areikat and his colleagues - Khaled Elgindy, a PLO policy adviser, and Rami Dajani, a PLO legal adviser - held their fist meeting on the weeklong visit with The Times. On Thursday, they will address the American Task Force on Palestine.

TIBETAN CRITICAL

The Dalai Lama expressed his love for President Bush on Monday but described some of his policies as a "disaster."

The spiritual leader of Tibet told reporters on a visit to the Czech Republic of his great respect for Mr. Bush, who regularly angered the Chinese by meeting with the Buddhist monk, who fled Tibet in 1959 when Chinese communists took over full control of the region.

"At [our] first meeting, we were very close," the Dalai Lama said, according to Agence France-Presse in Prague.

"To be honest," he added, "some of his policies have been a disaster, but as a person, I love him. He is open, very truthful."

DIPLOMATIC DUTY

Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani hit the airwaves to defend his government against criticism that it was responsible for the deadly terrorist attacks in India's financial capital, Bombay.

He appeared on ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corp., CNN and Fox News Channel, among other broadcast interviews.

However, his first words in response to the Nov. 26 assault on the coastal city got lost in much of the news coverage and because he issued them the following day, which was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Mr. Haqqani first warned against blaming his government in a Nov. 27 e-mail blast to American reporters.

"Pakistan's democratic government is confronting the menace of terrorism with great vigor, and recent threats against the life of President Asif [Ali] Zardari prove that the terrorists are feeling pressure from Pakistani forces," he said.

He called terrorism a threat to both India and Pakistan and noted that his government "vehemently condemned" the attacks in Bombay from the beginning of the assault on the city.

"It is unfair to blame Pakistan or Pakistanis for these acts of terrorism even before an investigation is undertaken," he said, criticizing Indian analysts for "scoring political points at the expense of a neighboring country that is, itself, a victim of terrorism."

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.