Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Egypts foreign minister

Egypt yesterday proved that old diplomats do not fade away. They are brought out of retirement and promoted.

President Hosni Mubarak surprised observers by selecting Ahmed Maher, a former ambassador to the United States, as Egypt´s new foreign minister.

More than 11 names were mentioned as candidates to fill the position, news reports from Egypt said. Mr. Maher´s brother, Ali, now ambassador to France, was one of the favorites to replace Amr Moussa, who served as foreign minister for 10 years. Mr. Moussa was named secretary-general of the Arab League.

“President Mubarak loves to surprise people,” one diplomat in Cairo told the Agence France-Presse news service.

Mr. Maher, who was sworn in at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, said he will continue to pursue Egypt´s goal of “restoring peace and security in the area.”

“God willing, I will be able to meet confidence,” he told reporters.

Among his first duties, Mr. Maher attended a meeting yesterday between Mr. Mubarak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Diplomats in Cairo described Mr. Maher as a man of moderation.

“Ahmed Maher is a very senior diplomat who doesn´t make too many waves as his predecessor did,” one diplomat told AFP. “Moussa was a bit extravagant, which annoyed some people.”

Mr. Maher, 65, served in Washington from 1992 until he retired in 1999, when he took up a new career writing political commentaries for Egypt´s Middle East News Agency.

A professional diplomat since 1957, Mr. Maher served in France, Portugal, Belgium, the former Soviet Union, Iran and the former Zaire. He advised the late President Anwar Sadat as a member of the Egyptian team that negotiated the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel.

Negroponte advances

President Bush ignored a growing campaign of opposition from the left and submitted to the Senate his nomination of John Negroponte to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Negroponte served 37 years in the Foreign Service before retiring in 1997. He was ambassador to Mexico, the Philippines and Honduras, where he became a target of many who supported the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

As ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, Mr. Negroponte carried out President Reagan´s policy of backing the Nicaraguan resistance, also known as the “contras.”

The Nation magazine, which is campaigning against Mr. Negroponte´s nomination, called him a “central player in a bloody paramilitary war that flagrantly violated” the principles of the United Nations.

Mr. Bush on Monday sent the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.

Walkley to Guinea

President Bush has named a diplomatic veteran of African trouble spots to be ambassador to Guinea.

For Barrie Walkley, serving as ambassador to the West African nation will be a relief from his tours of duty in Congo and Somalia.

He has been deputy chief of mission in Congo since 1998, witnessing the international war that involved five neighboring countries.

His earlier assignments have been as public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and at the State Department as public affairs adviser for the Bureau of African Affairs.

Helping poor countries

The new head of the main U.S. development agency yesterday promised poor countries that more help is on its way to boost education and reduce foreign debt.

Andrew Natsios, administrator of the Agency for International Development, said he has requested an additional $200 million in the 2002 budget for the 49 poorest nations, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“If you don´t have your education, it´s very difficult to push the economy forward,” he told reporters at a development conference in Belgium.

The additional money will help educate girls, reduce child labor, assist orphans whose parents died of AIDS and promote opportunities for villagers in rural areas, he said.

Mr. Natsios also called for more local government control of the international funds.

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