- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Malaysian diplomacy
The Malaysian foreign minister displayed his abundant diplomatic skills for reporters invited to tea to discuss his visit to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials.
Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar had kind words for an administration under criticism from abroad for rejecting the Kyoto global warming treaty, opposing a U.N. treaty to curb small arms and promoting a national missile defense, reports correspondent Gus Constantine of The Washington Times.
Mr. Hamid praised President Bush as a leader "more open and willing to engage" in world affairs than President Clinton.
He called globalization "an unstoppable process" that can only be modified in the direction of fairness.
Mr. Hamid said the United States is only acting in its national interest in its quest for missile defense, which critics charge would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and its opposition to the U.N. small-arms pact, which the administration views as a threat to the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of the right to bear arms.
The foreign minister's visit is also an exploratory foray ahead of this fall's forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Ironically, the foreign minister's peaches-and-cream views contrasted sharply with the frequently stormy rhetoric of his boss, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Malaysian leader has lashed out sharply at international financial leaders whose powers over currency markets can make or break small countries. Mr. Mahathir also attacked globalization broadly and has brushed off as international meddling criticism of his detention of his former finance minister, the Western-oriented Anwar Ibrahim.
On Monday, the day that Mr. Hamid met the press, Mr. Mahathir, 75, was basking in the glow of his 20th anniversary in power. He told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, that he had doubts about celebrating such an event because it could draw attention on how long he has ruled.

Envoy to Malaysia
President Bush has selected Marie Huhtala, a career diplomat, to serve as ambassador to Malaysia.
She has been deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand since 1998 and has served as director of the State Department's office for Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
New in Israel
Daniel Kurtzer, the first Orthodox Jew to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, took up his new post yesterday.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met Mr. Kurtzer at Tel Aviv's international airport.
Mr. Kurtzer, a career diplomat, has served as ambassador to Egypt since January 1998 and has spent more than 20 years as a Middle East specialist. He previously served at the U.S. Embassy in Israel in 1982 as a political officer.
At a swearing-in ceremony in Washington on Monday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was sending Mr. Kurtzer to "build bridges over troubled waters" on "one of the most difficult assignments imaginable."

Hopeful on Japan
Former Sen. Howard Baker sounded upbeat yesterday about Japan's ability to recover from its economic crisis as he met with reporters in Tokyo in his first news conference since becoming U.S. ambassador to Japan.
"The Japanese banking system has serious problems, but they are not insuperable problems," Mr. Baker said. "After all, Japan is a wealthy nation, with enormous reserve assets."
Japan, suffering from its 11th year of an economic slump, has a banking system crippled by bad debts and record unemployment.
Mr. Baker said there are "dozens" of ways for Japan to solve its problems.
"There are huge liquid resources in this country. They have a better situation than we had in the 1980s," he added, referring to the U.S. savings and loan crisis.
In a 40-minute meeting, Mr. Baker also predicted U.S.-Japanese military cooperation will expand and defended President Bush's plans for a missile defense and his opposition to the Kyoto global warming treaty.
Mr. Baker, a former Republican senator from Tennessee, also served as both majority and minority leader in the Senate and as chief of staff under President Reagan.

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