Embassy Row: Ambassador at risk

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Frank Duggan is worried about the fate of Libya’s ambassador to the United States, after reading the latest news from Libya and recalling the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujail has been a friend and supporter of Mr. Duggan and his colleagues — the relatives of the victims of an American airliner blown up over Scotland 25 years ago by a Libyan terrorist under the regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was overthrown and killed in October 2011.

Mr. Aujail has attended their memorial services and has pledged to help them find answers to questions about whether Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the attack, acted alone or on orders from the Gadhafi government.

However, Mr. Aujail also used to work for Gadhafi, who appointed him as ambassador to Washington in 2009. Mr. Aujail defected to the anti-Gadhafi resistance two years later. He was appointed ambassador from Libya’s new government in September 2011, about seven months after the revolution broke out.

Now the ambassador finds himself in the same position as other Gadhafi officials who joined the revolution. Libya’s parliament this week approved a bill to ban all officials linked to Gadhafi from holding any public office. The vote came after armed groups demanding the ban took over the Justice and Foreign ministries and stormed the offices of the Libyan state broadcasting service.

Mr. Duggan this week sent Mr. Aujail a letter of support praising his bravery in joining the rebellion against Gadhafi.

“I sincerely hope that your service to the revolution will be rewarded and you will continue in your position as ambassador,” said Mr. Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103. “There is an old idiom in English dictionaries that says, ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ which is unfortunate but a wry way of reminding us that there are unintended consequences to many of our actions.”

He noted that Mr. Aujail “took brave and vital actions” by resigning as Gadhafi’s ambassador in February 2011, a week after the outbreak of the uprising.

DIPLOMATIC BRAWL

Embassy Row usually reports on U.S. ambassadors abroad and foreign envoys in Washington, but a diplomatic dispute between Ecuador and Peru over a food fight in a supermarket was too tempting to ignore.

The two South American nations fought three border wars in the 20th century, and the quick-tempered president of Ecuador is prone to expelling foreign ambassadors whose countries displease him.

The latest crisis erupted in late April, when Ecuador’s ambassador to Peru, Rodrigo Riofrio, got into a brawl with two Peruvian women in the checkout line of a grocery store in Lima. You can catch the video from the store’s security camera at youtube.com/watch?v=cnL5S6RMQks&feature=player.

The ambassador was struck first by a woman who later told reporters that she tried to cut in front of him in line, but she said she hit Mr. Riofrio after he insulted Peru, calling the Andean nation a country “full of Indians.”

Peru asked Ecuador to recall Mr. Riofrio. But Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa last week demanded an apology from Peru and threatened to freeze relations.

This week, Mr. Correa agreed to recall his ambassador, and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala agreed to bring Ambassador Javier Leon Olavarria back from Ecuador, even though the Peruvian envoy had done nothing undiplomatic.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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