- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 9, 2000

Diplomatic nightmare

Austrian Ambassador Peter Moser is living a diplomatic "nightmare" as he tries to explain to the American public that his country is not breeding a neo-Nazi revival with the rise of the right-wing Freedom Party that has antagonized Austria's allies in Europe and the United States.
When he goes to social functions or talks to the media, all anyone wants to know about is Joerg Haider, the Freedom Party leader who has uttered complimentary words about Nazi employment policies and defended Austrian members of Adolf Hitler's Waffen SS troops. Mr. Haider has also apologized for many of his comments.
Mr. Moser told Embassy Row yesterday that he gets especially upset when he reads newspaper stories that refer to Austria as the birthplace of Nazism. True, Hitler was born there, but he rose to power in Germany.
"This is not the rise of neo-Nazism… . This is nothing to worry about. This is not 1933," he said, referring to the year Hitler became chancellor of Germany and the Nazi reign of terror began.
Since Mr. Haider's party formed a coalition government with the conservative People's Party last week, Mr. Moser has found himself the center of media attention.
"This is a nightmare for an ambassador to go through," he said. "I would love to have this media attention to brag about Austria, it's skiing and the beauty of the country."
As a professional diplomat, however, he is trying to explain the developments in Austria in the best way he can.
"I am trying to correct the cliches and the misunderstanding," Mr. Moser said. The European Union's and the United States' concerns are justified, but they don't know the situation intimately… . They should not prejudge us."
Austria's 14 partners in the European Union have suspended official bilateral contacts at the political level, and the United States has recalled Ambassador Kathryn Hall for consultations. She is expected in Washington today. Israel has withdrawn its ambassador.
While he is facing a public relations disaster, Mr. Moser has not found doors shut to official Washington. He still meets with State Department and EU diplomats here. He will attend a scheduled meeting today with his European colleagues.
"They have sympathy with me," he said.
"I hope to convince our U.S. and EU partners to wait and see how this government develops," Mr. Moser added.
"A diplomat," he said, "has one main task: to make friends for his country. Now it is very difficult."

Hearing on Sudan

A former Sudanese ambassador to the United States and a leader of the British House of Lords are among the scheduled speakers at a forum next week on religious persecution in Sudan.
The forum, organized by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, will address proposals for future U.S. relations with Sudan.
"For 17 years, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has waged civil war against Christians and followers of traditional African religions in the south," said commission spokesman Lawrence Goodrich in a statement.
"More than 2 million people have died. Millions more have been wounded and displaced. The government has deliberately starved civilians and tolerated the kidnapping of southern women and children by slavers."
The Sudanese government has repeatedly denied it tolerates slavery.
The participants at the forum include Baroness Caroline Cox, deputy speaker of the House of Lords. She has "rescued slaves in more than 20 trips to Sudan," Mr. Goodrich said.
Others include former Ambassador Frances Deng; Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the exiled Roman Catholic bishop of El-Obeid, Sudan; and Gaspar Biro, former U.N. human rights investigator for Sudan.
The forum will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday in Senate Room 235.

Honoring Daremblum

George Washington University on Friday will honor Costa Rican Ambassador Jamie Daremblum for a gift of books he made to the university's Gelman Library.
Mr. Daremblum donated books on the history of Judaism, primarily in Yiddish, that were collected by his parents.

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