- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009

APPEAL TO BRITAIN

The U.S. ambassador to Britain is trying to persuade London to accept some prisoners held as illegal combatants at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, if the incoming Obama administration closes the prison for suspected terrorists.

Ambassador Robert Tuttle, a political appointee who is leaving with the Bush administration, told the Times of London of talks he has held with British authorities on transferring some prisoners judged to be of low risk of committing terrorism.

“I would hope that if the U.K. could see its way through to take some detainees, that would certainly be helpful,” he said in an interview published last week. “Certainly, there have been discussions on the issue.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, said he is unaware of any such talks.

The United States has been trying to get some other nations to resettle Guantanamo prisoners whom their home countries will not accept.

JAPAN AND PIRATES

Japan needs to join the international fight against the growing “scourge” of piracy, the U.S. ambassador in Tokyo said in another farewell newspaper interview.

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer added that Japan’s pacifist constitution should not prevent it from at least sending naval vessels to protect merchant ships flying under the Japanese flag.

“I hope Japan will make a contribution and will do more to help rid the world of this scourge of piracy that we’re experiencing now,” he told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

The United States, China and some European nations have dispatched naval ships to fight pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. Pirates attacked more than 100 ships last year.

Mr. Schieffer said Japan needs to find a way around Article 9 of its postwar constitution, which prohibits acts of war, and protect Japanese interests at sea.

“If they were the sailors of another nation, I could understand the problems that Article 9 of the constitution would present,” he said.

“But I just can’t understand how anybody can’t protect themselves and their citizens against pirates.”

Mr. Schieffer last week told another newspaper that he will encourage the Obama administration to support Japan’s demands for a full account of the Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• John Howard, former prime minister of Australia, who meets President Bush to receive the U.S. Medal of Freedom.

Wednesday

• Derek Plumbly, a former British ambassador to Egypt and now chairman of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission to monitor a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army; and Alex de Waal, a British expert on Africa and current director of the Social Science Research Council in New York. They participate in a panel discussion on Sudan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

• Huang Chengfeng, director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in China, a joint educational project of Nanjing University and Johns Hopkins University. He attends a Chinese New Year’s reception at the Hopkins-Nanjing Washington office.

Friday

• Ghassan al-Mufleh, a former political prisoner in Syria; Abdul Razak Eid, co-founder of the Committees for Civil Societies in Syria, now living in exile in Paris; and Dr. Hashem Sultan, a physician and member of the general secretariat of the opposition Al-Infetah Party. They participate in a forum at the Hudson Institute titled: “The Syrian Regime: Between Terror and Diplomacy.”

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

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