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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BUSINESS, NOT TERRORISM

The Mexican ambassador compared rival Mexican drug gangs responsible for 35,000 deaths to businessmen pursing "hostile takeovers," as he complained about U.S. attempts to label murderous cartels as terrorists.

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan this week criticized the Dallas Morning News for supporting Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee. Mr. McCaul is the sponsor of a bill that would put Mexican drug lords on the State Department terrorist list and give U.S. officials broader authority to prosecute them.

"These transnational criminal organizations, which operate in both our countries, are not terrorist organizations," the ambassador wrote in a letter to the editor of the Dallas newspaper.

"They are very violent criminal groups that are well-structured and well financed. They pursue a single goal. They want to maximize their profits and do what most business do: hostile takeovers and pursue mergers and acquisition."

Mr. Sarukhan's letter shocked an editorial writer for the paper, who accused the ambassador Tuesday of defending "these mass murdering, torturing, dismembering, bombing, beheading and drug-trafficking organizations."

DRONES ON AGENDA

The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan this week promised that Washington plans to review the military policy of launching unmanned aerial attacks against terrorists hiding among civilians in remote parts of the South Asian nation.

"That is something on our agenda," Ambassador Cameron Munter said in response to a question after a speech to foreign policy specialists at the Institute of Strategic Studies in the capital, Islamabad.

Mr. Munter did not mention the so-called "drone" attacks in his prepared remarks, nor did he give any details about the policy review. The Pakistan government has publicly denounced the attacks, which have killed civilians as well as terrorists in the northwest frontier near Afghanistan.

Privately, however, the government reportedly has encouraged the attacks, and the Pakistani military has provided the CIA with ground coordinates to target Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.

In his speech, Mr. Munter mentioned CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis, whose arrest sparked diplomatic disputes between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan accused Mr. Davis of murdering two men in Lahore in January, but the State Department said he acted in self-defense and accused Pakistan of violating his diplomatic immunity.

Pakistan released Mr. Davis last month, as Pakistani media reported that the United States paid more than $2 million in "blood money" to the relatives of the dead men.

Mr. Munter called for a "renewal" of relations between Pakistan and the United States and called Pakistan a valuable U.S. ally in the region.

"In the ensuing weeks in the time since last January, I believe both sides ... have reflected on the importance of our ties and on how we must not let this very regrettable incident stop us, as we work together for Pakistan's bright future with America's determined help," he said.

"Instead, let us look for renewal."

Mr. Munter recalled a recent conversation with a prominent Pakistani "opinion leader" who "implied to me that America wants a weak Pakistan."

"Nothing could be further from the truth," the ambassador said. "We support a strong Pakistan as a partner in fighting terrorism. We support the Pakistan military and law-enforcement authorities in their efforts to keep Pakistanis safe."

In Washington this week, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director-general of Pakistan's spy agency, met with CIA Director Leon Panetta and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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

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