- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2011

‘FARCE’ ACCUSATION

The president of Bulgaria this week denounced the American ambassador on Facebook and compared him to a disreputable, 19th-century Russian envoy, as the U.S. Embassy in Sofia scrambled to defuse the diplomatic dispute.

A translation error led President Georgi Parvanov to vent his anger on the Internet after he heard that Ambassador James Warlick called a public spat between the president and the Bulgarian defense minister a “farce.”

“The discussion between President Georgi Parvanov and Defense Minister Anyu Angelov about the defense policy of the nation seems a little bit like a farce,” Mr. Parvanov wrote on his Facebook page, referring to himself in the third person.

“This is what U.S. Ambassador James Warlick said today. … If there is something farcical, it is Warlick’s behavior.”

Mr. Parvanov compared Mr. Warlick to Gen. Nikolai von Kaulbars, a notorious Russian envoy to Bulgaria in the late 1880s. The Russian ambassador interfered so often in the country’s domestic affairs that Bulgaria finally expelled him.

“I will only point out that since the time of General Kaulbars, … no foreign envoy has ever behaved like that, like a governor-general,” Mr. Parvanov added.

The embassy quickly explained that Mr. Warlick’s remarks at a public policy conference on Wednesday were mistranslated.

Mr. Warlick never used the word “farce” to describe the conflict between the president and the defense minister, the embassy said.

The ambassador’s exact statement was: “It’s a little bit of a false discussion, and that’s what I would like to reflect on a little right now.”

Mr. Warlick then praised Bulgaria for its contributions to foreign peacekeeping missions since 1990.

Mr. Parvanov has complained that his defense minister is creating “an army for exports” and failing to defend the homeland.

Bulgaria has contributed troops to missions in Bosnia, Cambodia, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia and Somalia.

RELIGIOUSLY COMMITTED

The State Department defended its commitment to religious freedom this week, after a U.S. ambassador complained about “rigidly narrow” bureaucrats who accused him of spending too much time promoting religion.

“We have an ambassador for religious freedom. We have an office for international religious freedom. We publish two reports a year on religious freedom. We maintain a list of countries of particular concern for [the lack of] religious freedom,” spokesman Evan Owen said.

“I can’t imagine an agency that has a broader portfolio,” he added.

Douglas W. Kmiec, a devout Catholic, announced his resignation as ambassador to Malta after a State Department inspector general’s report said he spent too much time speaking and writing about religion.

“I doubt very much whether one could ever spend too much time on this subject,” he said in a resignation letter to President Obama.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Kmiec criticized the inspector general for a “flawed and narrow vision of our diplomatic mission” to Malta, a conservative Catholic country.

In a related development, the Senate last week confirmed the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Mrs. Cook is the first woman and first African-American to fill the position. She is the retired pastor of the Bronx Christian Fellowship Church in New York City.

She will replace John Hanford, a Republican appointee who resigned in January 2009.

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

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