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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

HOPELESS IN ZIMBABWE

The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe was shocked to see the distress among starving villagers on a recent trip through the countryside, while President Robert Mugabe continues his grip on his bankrupt southern African nation with a staggering inflation rate of 11.2 million percent.

"When you pass through the villages, there is a total look of hopelessness from the people's faces," Ambassador James McGee told reporters in a video conference from the capital, Harare.

"There are a lot of people standing around doing nothing. There are a lot of distended bellies out there of small children picking sweet but non-nutritious food off trees."

Deadly diseases like cholera are spreading, as famine spreads and hospitals close for lack of supplies, the Reuters news agency reported.

"We have a very bad situation," Mr. McGee said. "I don't see anything that will alleviate these problems until the government of Robert Mugabe starts to act in good faith."

Mr. McGee said Mr. Mugabe continues to consolidate his hold on power through patronage politics. Mr. Mugabe also continues to avoid a power-sharing deal with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Mugabe's government recently confirmed the astronomical inflation rates but blamed them on foreign economic sanctions.

'UNSUITABLE'

Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, a former ambassador to the United States, was unceremoniously dumped in his a bid to achieve another ambassadorship when President Danilo Turk rejected him and six other nominees from the outgoing center-right government.

Mr. Turk declared "some of them unsuitable" to represent Slovenia on Friday when he refused to appoint seven of 13 nominees of the center-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who lost the September election to Borut Pahor, leader of the center-left Social Democrat Party.

"Some of the candidates to become ambassadors do not meet the legal requirements. Other have not got enough experience, and some of them behaved in a manner unsuitable for an ambassador," Mr. Turk's office said in a statement.

The Slovenian Press Agency called the rejection of the nominees an "unprecedented move."

Mr. Rupel, himself a leftist intellectual, was ambassador in Washington from 1997 to 2000, when he returned to Slovenia to serve as foreign minister. He held that post through this year, except for a five-month period in 2004 when his party was briefly out of power.

Mr. Rupel will be replaced as foreign minister by another former ambassador to the United States, Samuel Zbogar, who served in Washington from 2005 until the fall of this year.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, who meets President Bush.

Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He discusses public-interest litigation in an address to the Georgetown Law School.

Laurent Bonnefoy, a fellow at France's Institute for Research and Studies of the Arab and Muslim World at the University of Provence; Thomas Hegghammer, senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment; and Stephane Lacroix of the Institute for Political Studies in Paris. They participate in a panel discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on terrorism and Islam in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

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