- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2010

ICELAND STEAMED

Iceland is angry with the U.S. Embassy over the leak of confidential documents prepared for visiting American officials, warning that the release of the information could have a chilling effect on bilateral relations.

“This is the second time this sort of thing has happened,” Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson told the Fretabladid newspaper this week. “This means the people are becoming more cautious in the relationship with other foreign service who behave like this.”

The Foreign Ministry summoned Sam Watson, the U.S. charge d’affaires, on Monday, after profiles of Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, Ambassador to the United States Albert Jonsson and Mr. Skarphedinsson appeared on the Web site, wikileaks, which posts confidential documents it receives from sources around the world.

On Feb. 18, wikileaks posted private documents on talks among high-ranking Icelandic officials and U.S. and British diplomats about an ongoing banking dispute between Iceland and Britain.

The latest leaks contain mostly complimentary descriptions about the three Icelandic officials, but also include some candid descriptions of their personality traits.

The documents describe the leftist prime minister as “one of Iceland’s most popular politicians” but add that she can be “firm and occasionally impatient, with a tendency to work alone.”

The foreign minister is “genial and mercurial” and “fond of the United States,” according to the briefing papers. He “has been a close U.S. Embassy contact for many years,” the documents added.

The ambassador is “likable, smart and tenacious.” However he can also be “prickly when … he perceives that Iceland is not being treated as an equal partner or when core national interests are at stake.”

SOFT TARGETS

The co-chairmen of a congressional human rights panel worry that the terrorist bombings in Russia are the start of a campaign to attack “soft targets” and kill civilians who have nothing to do with Moscow’s efforts to crush Muslim separatists in Chechnya.

“The architects of Russia’s North Caucasus policy don’t ride the metro, especially at eight in the morning,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, in response to the attack on Moscow’s subway system on Monday morning.

“These attacks targeted innocent working-class people on their way to jobs and schools. If you improve security on these trains, the killers will simply find a softer target.”

The co-chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe called for Moscow to deal with the underlying causes of the unrest in Chechnya.

“It serves as a cry for help to end the violence and poverty in Chechnya and neighboring regions that engender the desperation that makes these sorts of incidents more likely,” they said.

Chechen rebels on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the Moscow attacks in an Internet video posted shortly before another wave of suicide bombings struck civilian targets in the North Caucasus region.

REFUGEE REBELS

A U.S. diplomat visiting Somali refugees settlements in Kenya fears that the overcrowded camps are a breeding ground for rebels returning to Somalia to fight an Islamic insurgency that erupted three years ago.

“We are very concerned about reports that the camp has been used for recruitment of combatants inside Somalia,” said Reuben Brigety, deputy assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, after visiting one of three camps in the town of Dadaab in northeastern Kenya.

The Associated Press has reported that the camps are being used to train rebels to combat Islamist militants fighting for control of the country. About 270,000 Somali refugees are in three camps in Dadaab.

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

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