- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

PEACE AMBASSADOR

For the first time in more than 25 years, an ambassador from Sri Lanka can lobby Washington to support peace and reconstruction, instead of a war against terrorist rebels in the South Asian island nation.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, who has been here for less than a year, spent most of the past several months searching for allies on Capitol Hill to counter fierce criticism from some human rights groups that accused his government of the indiscriminate killing of civilians in pursuit of ethnic Tamil rebels.

However, since the weekend, when the Sri Lankan army claimed a final victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Mr. Wickramasuriya has become a peace envoy.

“Actually,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Wednesday, “as ambassador, I was always promoting peace, not war.”

Mr. Wickramasuriya is now looking for help in the government’s goals of rehabilitation of former rebels, who are expected to receive amnesty, also reconstruction of the countryside destroyed by war and rigged with rebel land mines, and reconciliation between the minority Tamil and majority Sinhalese populations.

The ambassador believes Congress and the Obama administration will support those goals and help fund peace programs, although Sri Lanka has not yet asked for a specific amount of aid.

“I think it’s going to be very easy to do my job now,” he said.

CHINA’S EXPECTATION

China expects the new U.S. ambassador to play a “positive” role in promoting diplomatic ties between Washington and Beijing.

Ma Zhaoxu, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters this week that the Obama administration is seeking China’s comments on how the next ambassador can strengthen the bilateral relationship.

“The United States has officially sought opinions from the Chinese side through diplomatic channels, and China is handling the issue according to relevant procedures and international conventions,” he said.

“We hope that the new appointee will play a positive role and work to the advantage of the development of bilateral relations in a new era and strengthen the friendship between the two peoples.”

President Obama over the weekend nominated Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a Republican, to serve as ambassador to China. Mr. Huntsman, 49, speaks Mandarin Chinese, which he learned as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the 1980s.

He also served as ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and as a deputy trade representative under President George W. Bush.

AMERICAN LEADERSHIP

The British ambassador is one foreign diplomat who still believes that the United States will play a dominant and positive role in the world for “decades to come.”

Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald, on a West Coast visit this week, told students at California’s Stanford University on Monday that the United States also must rely on Europe as an “indispensable partner.”

“While other actors, including China, are becoming important, this is a slow process,” he said. “The U.S. will be the world’s predominant power for decades to come, and the weight of the European Union means that it is a serious player and indispensable partner for the U.S. now and will remain so into the future.”

Mr. Sheinwald added that the EU can act as a “foundation for an ambitious international agenda under American leadership.”

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

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