- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2001

Diplomats in transit

The U.S. ambassadors to Russia and Israel are leaving their posts disappointed by Moscow's slow pace toward democratic reform and by the failure of the Middle East peace talks.

However, the first American ambassador to Vietnam, a former prisoner of war at the notorious "Hanoi Hilton," is returning to the United States convinced that the two former enemies are now on the path toward a peaceful partnership.

Those are some of the thoughts they expressed last week as James Collins prepared to leave Moscow, Martin Indyk said goodbye to Jerusalem and Douglas Peterson made his farewells in Hanoi.

Mr. Collins, who is due to leave today, said he is worried about the "re-emergence of arbitrary authority" under President Vladimir Putin.

"If Putin and administration are to modernize the economy and institutions in such a way that Russia is able to compete in the modern economic system, they are going to have to ensure that the rule of law is the principle of the future," he said.

Mr. Collins will be replaced by Alexander Vershbow, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

In Jerusalem, Mr. Indyk blamed Iran for undermining Middle East peace efforts by supporting Palestinian terrorist organizations.

Mr. Indyk, in an interview Friday in the Jerusalem Post, also criticized the Palestinians for a "fundamental failure of leadership."

President Bush has nominated Daniel Kurtzer, now ambassador to Egypt, to replace Mr. Indyk, who said last week he was preparing to leave "within a few days."

In Hanoi, however, Mr. Peterson was full of hope for a new U.S. "partnership" with communist Vietnam.

"Despite our troubled past, Vietnam and the United States have become nations of friends," he told the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "Thanks to their enormous cooperation, the United States and Vietnam can now say they have a partnership."

Mr. Peterson is due to leave this Sunday.


More ambassadors

President Bush has selected a high-tech business executive, a lawyer and two career diplomats in his latest round of ambassadorial nominations.

Mr. Bush chose Clifford Sobel, chairman of the Internet telephone firm Net2Phone Inc., as ambassador to the Netherlands.

"Cliff Sobel is an accomplished business leader who understands international trade and foreign affairs," Mr. Bush said.

He selected lawyer Stephen Michael Minikes to be ambassador to the Austrian-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Michael Malinowski, deputy chief of mission in the Philippines, was chosen to serve as ambassador to Nepal, and Robert Geers Loftis, deputy chief of mission in Mozambique, was nominated to be ambassador to Lesotho.


Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija. He meets Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and holds a noon news conference Thursday at the National Press Club.

• Hilmar Kopper, Germany's commissioner for foreign investment and chairman of the supervisory board of Deutsche Bank. He holds a 9 a.m. news conference at the National Press Club.

Wednesday

• Abul Hasan Chowdhury, Bangladesh's state minister for foreign affairs. He addresses invited guests at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

• The Most Rev. Winston Hugh Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. He addresses invited guests at a forum sponsored by the Black Church Initiative and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Thursday

• Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who meets President Bush. He holds a 9:30 a.m. news conference Friday at the National Press Club.

• Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriquez, who meets President Bush on Friday.

• Former Mongolian Prime Minister Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who discusses press freedom in Mongolia at the Freedom Forum's Newseum.

Friday

• Naomi Chazan, deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, who addresses invited guests of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and the Middle East Institute.

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