- - Sunday, December 9, 2012

CARACAS — Norway plans to close its embassy in Venezuela because of rampant crime in the South American country and move the diplomatic mission to neighboring Colombia, according to Norwegian Ambassador Lars Vaagen

He said the decision to move the embassy to Bogota next year was made after analyzing the problem of widespread violent crime in Venezuela.

“We see the security situation as increasingly difficult,” Mr. Vaagen said last week, after announcing the move.

Norway’s embassy in Caracas has been operating for almost 45 years.

More than 14,000 people were killed in Venezuela last year, according to government figures. The murder rate of 50 per 100,000 people makes Venezuela one of the most violent countries in the world.

In the past year, diplomats from Mexico and Chile were kidnapped, but all eventually were freed after ordeals lasting from two hours to more than a day. The abductions of diplomats influenced Norway’s decision to move its embassy, Mr. Vaagen said. Thieves also have broken into several diplomatic missions in recent years.

IRAQ

Syrian envoy replaces diplomat who defected

BAGHDAD — Syria’s new ambassador to Iraq has taken up his post in Baghdad, five months after his predecessor defected in July and joined the country’s revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ambassador Sattam al-Jadaan, named on Oct. 9 to replace Nawaf Fares, submitted his credentials to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani last week.

In their meeting, Mr. Talabani “stressed the importance of relations between the two brotherly countries” and his readiness to support Mr. Jadaan’s efforts “to make his mission in Iraq a success”.

Iraq has pointedly avoided calling for the ouster of Mr. Assad, whose forces are locked in a 20-month-old civil war that, activists say, has killed more than 40,000 people.

THE PHILIPPINES

Senior diplomat named ambassador to China

MANILA — Philippine President Benigno Aquino named a senior diplomat as ambassador to China to demonstrate that his government is serious about resolving the tense standoff over territory in the South China Sea.

Erlinda Basilio, 68, who as an undersecretary in the foreign ministry, helped draft national diplomatic policy, will take over a post that was effectively vacant as a dispute over the Scarborough Shoal simmered.

The previous ambassador, Sonia Brady, suffered a stroke in August, four months after Chinese patrol vessels prevented the Philippine navy from arresting what the Philippine side described as Chinese poachers in Manila’s waters.

“This sends a signal of how important our relations with China are and how serious we are in trying to achieve an understanding with them,” Mr. Aquino said last week, after announcing Ms. Basilio’s appointment.

She previously served as ambassador to Sweden and representative to the Philippine mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbors. These areas include major sea lanes and are believed to hold vast mineral and oil resources.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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