- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DIPLOMATIC SPANKING

A top Bulgarian official scolded the U.S. ambassador in Sofia after the American envoy complained that Bulgaria is ignoring an offer from a U.S.-based oil company to develop vast amounts of natural gas from shale deposits.

Traicho Traikov, minister of energy and economy, on Tuesday chided Ambassador James B. Warlick Jr. for failing to recognize that Bulgarian law requires the government to consider competitive bids on energy projects.

“My friend, Ambassador Warlick, seems to be unable to understand for six months now what exactly is happening with shale gas and why Bulgarian legislation and national interest need to be observed,” Mr. Traikov said at the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, the capital. “To grant permits for exploration and production, we must hold a competition.”

On Sunday, Mr. Warlick reiterated his impatience with Bulgaria, telling the BTV television station that the California-based Chevron Corp. has been waiting since May for a response from the government on its proposal to develop untapped shale deposits estimated at about 700 billion cubic feet.

“Chevron has been expressing a strong interest in exploring for shale gas since May, and it is still waiting to receive a permit,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Traikov added that he is well aware of Chevron’s interest because he met with company executives on a U.S. visit despite what he said was the U.S. Embassy’s discouragement of his approach to the oil giant.

“Why did Chevron come at all? Because when I visited the U.S., I went and talked with them, even though the U.S. Embassy had told me, ‘Don’t talk to them. They are a huge company and are not interested in Bulgaria,’” Mr. Traikov said, according to the Sofia News Agency.

CONSIDER TONGA

The U.S. ambassador to NATO on Tuesday tried to shame the Netherlands into redeploying troops to Afghanistan.

“Even Tonga has sent 50 people,” Ambassador Ivo Daalder said in a lecture at The Hague Center for Strategic Studies.

Tonga is a South Pacific island nation of about 100,000 residents, while the Netherlands has a population of 16.6 million.

Mr. Daalder, himself a Dutch native, urged the Netherlands government to send troops back to Afghanistan to protect Dutch police officers who are training Afghan police.

He worried that the Dutch example will lead other nations to withdraw troops, even though the United States is expected to begin bringing soldiers home next year.

The Netherlands pulled out about 2,000 troops in August after a four-year deployment. A previous coalition government collapsed in February over a dispute about extending the Dutch mission.

INDIA’S RAY DIES

A former Indian ambassador to the United States, who ended his term in a political fight in Washington, died over the weekend.

Siddhartha Shankar Ray, 90, succumbed to renal failure after battling kidney ailments for years, according to the Times of India. He is survived by his wife, Maya.

As India’s envoy in Washington from 1992 until 1996, Mr. Ray was known as a political insider who developed strong Democratic allies in Congress. However, he failed to nurture Republicans, who took control on Capitol Hill after the 1994 elections. Mr. Ray faced strong criticism at home after the Republican-controlled Congress passed an arms deal for Pakistan, India’s longtime regional rival.

In 1996, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, complained that Mr. Ray violated diplomatic protocol by writing letters to support the re-election of pro-Indian members of Congress.

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

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