- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nigeria is rich in oil and plagued by ethnic violence, but the U.S. ambassador there praises “diversity,” not energy, as the West African nation’s “greatest asset.”

Ambassador Terence McCulley, a career diplomat, applauded Nigeria’s vast array of tribes as he opened an American cultural center over the weekend in the southeastern city of Enugu.

Nigeria’s greatest asset is its people, diversity the vitality of Nigerians who are anxious to deepen and broaden their relationship with the United States,” a local newspaper quote him as saying.

Nigeria has one of the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Oil wealth accounts for 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign earnings and 65 percent of government revenues.

The nation of 170 million people is divided into more than 250 groups, but the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba make up half of the population and account for much of the ethnic tension.

Tribal violence frequently erupts after elections. Ethnic groups complain of discrimination at the hands of other tribes.

Religion also splits the population, with about 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian. About 10 percent of the population holds traditional beliefs such as the worship of ancestors or multiple gods.

Islamic terrorism also is gripping Nigeria, with the vicious Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, which claimed credit for kidnapping and killing seven foreigners last month.

Keystone concerns

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere is growing tired of Obama administration excuses for the delay in a decision on a major Canadian oil pipeline to Texas.

Rep. Matt Salmon says he is determined to get some answers about why the White House refuses to endorse the Keystone XL Pipeline, even after the State Department found no significant environmental reasons to stop it.

“I hope to delve into the administration’s continued delay in approving the highly popular pipeline from Canada,” the Arizona Republican said as he announced a subcommittee hearing for Thursday.

Mr. Salmon also is pressing the administration to approve a major agreement with Mexico to tap undersea oil and natural gas reserves along the U.S.-Mexican maritime boundary.

His subcommittee will hear testimony from Jack N. Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research; and Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Thursday

Martin Callanan, a British member of the European Parliament and chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and Derk Jan Eppink, a member of the European Parliament from Belgium and vice chairman of the group. They address the Heritage Foundation on the impact on the European Union of Britain’s possible withdrawal from the EU.

Ed Fast, Canada’s minister for international trade. He addresses the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Canada’s trade with Asia.

Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy and former president of the European Commission. He addresses plans for a November EU summit with leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

David Usupashvili, speaker of the parliament of Georgia. He addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about political tension in the former Soviet republic.

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