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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

Jewish envoy

The king of Bahrain this week named a Jewish woman as ambassador to the United States in the first such appointment in the Arab world.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa selected Houda Nonoo, a member of Bahrain's legislature, on Wednesday, the country's state news agency reported yesterday.

Embassy Row last month noted that Mrs. Nonoo's appointment was widely expected. She is also Bahrain's first female ambassador to Washington.

No respect

Sri Lanka is the Rodney Dangerfield of countries.

Like the late comedian whose signature laugh line was, "I don't get no respect," Sri Lankan officials complain they get little international recognition for any improvements in the South Asian island nation devastated by 25 years of war with rebels widely regarded as terrorists.

On a Washington visit this week, G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka's minister for export development and international trade, defended his government against charges of human rights violations, as he tried to promote investment opportunities in the nation's eastern province. Government troops last year liberated that area, which had been controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The rebels are known for killing or kidnapping opponents and extorting money from Tamil civilians in their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority, and yet they still have a large international following, he said.

"It's not as though we have no friends, but the hostile lobby seems to have a great deal of muscle," Mr. Peiris told Embassy Row.

That lobby includes former President Jimmy Carter and South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who campaigned to get Sri Lanka removed from the U.N. Human Rights Council this month.

Mr. Peiris pointed out that Sri Lankan voters selected a new government in the eastern province on May 10 in the first election in 20 years. A former Tamil Tiger, who broke with the rebels, was appointed chief minister of the province.

To Mr. Peiris, that development signaled progress. Election observers, however, accused the government of voter fraud and intimidation, as the rebels set off a bomb in a cafe and killed 11 people.

"However hard we try to present facts on a rational basis, you get the impression that their minds are made up," he said, referring to Sri Lanka's international critics.

Mr. Peiris said the government's only option is to work harder to present their case.

"We need more understanding from the world," he said, "but the onus is on us."

Iran backs change

Iran's foreign minister yesterday echoed Sen. Barack Obama's campaign theme when he predicted that Americans will vote for "change" in the November presidential election.

Americans are "looking for change," Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters covering an international conference on Iraq in the Swedish capital Stockholm. Mr. Mottaki declined to endorse a particular candidate, although he commented on foreign policy issues in the presidential campaign, according to our correspondent Nicholas Kralev, who is among the State Department reporters traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"What is very clear in the United States is that everybody is looking for changes. That is very important," Mr. Mottaki said. "The foreign policy of the United States will affect this presidential election, and that's why all the candidates are trying to say something new to public opinion."

Mr. Obama's campaign slogan is "Change we can believe in."

Iran has already become a major issue in the campaign, with Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, criticizing and ridiculing Mr. Obama's position that he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions. The United States has accused Iran of supporting terrorists in Iraq who are attacking U.S. troops.

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