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Embassy Row: Diplomatic condolences

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2013

U.S. diplomatic missions lowered the American flag to half staff Tuesday to honor the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, as foreign officials and diplomats sent condolences to the White House and the families of the 12 victims killed in the rampage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sympathies in a letter to President Obama, the Israeli Embassy said.

"On behalf of the people of Israel, please accept my heartfelt condolences following the tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard," Mr. Netanyahu wrote. "We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of this heinous crime, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured."

Joao Vale de Almeida, the ambassador from the European Union, tweeted a message on behalf of the 28 EU nations: "I'm saddened by the D.C. Navy Yard shooting. My heart goes out to the victims and their families."

The Embassy of Ireland, an EU member, added its own condolences.

"We extend our sincere sympathies to [the] victims and their families & friends," the embassy said.

Matthew Barzun, the U.S. ambassador in London, expressed his gratitude for messages sent by Britons who were shocked by the shooting.

"Thanks to all those in [the] U.K. sharing condolences with us," he said on Twitter.

As for Russia, nothing appeared on the websites of its embassy in Washington and its Foreign Ministry in Moscow, a day after a top Russian official mocked the U.S. over the massacre.

"Nobody's even surprised anymore," said Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Mr. Pushkov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, also ridiculed Americans' belief that the U.S. is an exceptional nation, calling the shooting a "clear confirmation of American exceptionalism."

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow accused Mr. Pushkov of exploiting a "tragedy for a set of political points."

RACISM AND RUSSIA

Add racism to mockery over the Navy Yard shooting, and the reputation of Russia's parliament keeps sinking.

Irina Rodnina, a Russian lawmaker and former Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, used her Twitter page to insult President Obama by posting a digitally altered photograph showing Mr. Obama with his mouth full of food looking ravenously at a banana held by someone off camera.

Ms. Rodnina, a member of ruling United Russia party, defended the Twitter post as an expression of free speech, but she later deleted the photo.

"Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and you should answer for your own hang-ups," she told critics on her Twitter page.

Michael A. McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, responded to her "outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country."

REJECTED INVITATIONS

As an angry Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced Tuesday that she was calling off her state visit to Washington next month, President Obama received another rejection.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma postponed a Washington visit scheduled this week. He gave no reason for his decision.

Ms. Rousseff's reasons, however, were clearly stated. She is outraged over revelations that the National Security Agency regularly intercepted her phone calls and targeted the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

And she is still waiting from a public apology from Mr. Obama.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

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