- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

Two of Zimbabwe’s state-owned newspapers yesterday accused the U.S. ambassador to South Africa of sneaking into the country on an “undisclosed mission” but got the name of the American envoy wrong, as the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria said the real ambassador never left town.

The breathless reporting from the Herald and the Chronicle newspapers underscored the continuing diplomatic tensions between the brutal government of President Robert Mugabe and the Bush administration, which has accused him of orchestrating political violence against his opponents.

In Washington this week, the dispute spilled over into the Democratic presidential primary race whencriticized for saying Mr. Mugabe lost the first round of presidential elections on March 29 and refused to accept the results.

The two Zimbabwean newspapers reported that the “United States Ambassador to South Africa sneaked into Zimbabwe … [Tuesday] on an as-yet-undisclosed mission.” Quoting “sources at the border,” the newspapers said Mr. Diskin traveled through Botswana, which borders both countries, to discuss “confidential matters” with , the U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe.

“Whilst it’s normal for ambassadors to visit each other, we find the timing and the route used very odd,” both newspapers quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, noted that Mr. Diskin is a food program administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development on a routine visit to monitor the distribution of $171 million in U.S. food assistance over the past year. Mr. Diskin is attached to the USAID office in South Africa. The real ambassador to South Africa is , who “did not go to Zimbabwe,” according to a statement released by the embassy in Pretoria.

In Washington, Ambassador Mapuranga told the Redding News Review online news site that Mrs. Clinton failed to understand Zimbabwe’s presidential election laws, which require candidates to get more than 50 percent of the vote in the first ballot or face a runoff. Mr. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are scheduled to run against each other June 27.

“If Senator Hillary Clinton was not aware of these facts , her ignorance can be excused, considering the stressful situation she is in because of her faltering campaign,” Mr. Mapuranga said. “But if she was aware of the facts, we can only conclude that this is yet another of her misspoken utterances.”

Mrs. Clinton, speaking in Florida last week, compared the election in Zimbabwe to her attempts to have Florida’s disputed primary delegates seated at the Democratic Party convention. She said if the party disqualifies the delegates because Florida violated party rules by holding an early primary, that decision would be like Mr. Mugabe’s position.

“Tragically, an election was held, and the president lost,” Mrs. Clinton said. “They refused to abide by the will of the people.”

Whether he is speaking Czech or English, has no kind words for environmentalists.

Mr. Klaus, the pugnacious president of the Czech Republic, is in Washington to confront the politically correct and promote the new English version of his book, “Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?”

He addressed the National Press Club Tuesday and spoke last night at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner. His message is best summarized in this passage from his book:

“The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity at … beginning of the 21st century is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.”

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