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Embassy Row: Purveyors of hate

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has denounced the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, with Iran as it current secretary-general, as an "alliance of extremists, flagrant human-rights abuses and purveyors of hate."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen noted in her broadside Tuesday that leading members of the movement, a vestige of the Cold War, include Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe — all countries run by ruthless autocrats.

The Florida Republican also criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who left Tuesday to attend the movement's summit, which begins Wednesday in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

"Secretary-General Ban's actions only encourage Iran and other despots, undermining the pursuit of peace and the struggle for freedom and universal human rights," she said.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen appealed to the democratic countries in the 120-member alliance to repudiate the organization, which has "clearly become a tool for rogue regimes to advance their oppressive agendas."

The Non-Aligned Movement, which sought a middle way between the West and the Soviet bloc, was created in 1961 by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghanain President Kwame Nkrumah, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Indonesian President Sukarno and Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito.

A modern monarch

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sends emails, posts tweets and even has a Facebook page. Like something out of Gilbert and Sullivan, hers is the very model of a modern major monarchy.

British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott disclosed the queen's fondness for social media as a guest on National Public Radio's rollicking quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!"

"Oh, she's very modern," Mr. Westmacott said of the 86-year-old monarch. "She does Twitter. She does email. She does Facebook."

The revelation left host Peter Sagal and his witty sidekicks stunned.

"The Queen of England tweets?" asked Mr. Sagal.

"You check it out," the ambassador replied.

Mr. Sagal invited Mr. Westmacott to the weekend show to play the quiz game in which a guest is asked three questions. By answering two correctly, the guest wins a prize for an NPR listener who gets veteran broadcaster Carl Kasell to record a message on his phone-answering machine.

Before playing the game, Mr. Sagal said he had done some background research on Mr. Westmacott.

"We did find out [that], for all your skills as a diplomat, ... there was an incident in your past that you caused a bit of a scandal," Mr. Sagal said.

"Oh God, which one?" the ambassador said.

Mr. Sagal found his opening.

"You go through them, and I'll tell you the one I was thinking of," he said.

The actual scandal was more of a diplomatic prank. In his previous assignment as British ambassador in Paris, Mr. Westmacott served his French guests British cheese at embassy receptions.

"I used to have a bit of fun by showing my French friends that there are great British cheeses," he said. "I did not often expose them to great British red wine."

Yes, there is such a thing.

As for the quiz on what aspiring politicians did in school, Mr. Westmacott correctly guessed that corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff was disqualified in a race for an eighth-grade student council seat for buying votes and that a sixth-grader in New Jersey sought political advice from Gov. Chris Christie in a race for student council president.

So, a listener in suburban Maryland has a British ambassador to thank for Mr. Kasell's mellow voice on his answering machine.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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