- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Ghost of Genghis Khan

Mongolia´s ambassador to the United Nations is always ready to talk about Genghis Khan.

The legacy of the 13th century warlord who expanded the Mongol empire into parts of Europe is evident today, especially among those 1.2 million people, some half of the nation´s population, who still live a nomadic life.

However, for Ambassador Jargalsaikhany Enkhsaikhan, modern problems call for more immediate attention.

Mr. Enkhsaikhan, in Washington earlier this month to attend an environmental conference, described how the encroachment of the Gobi Desert which has expanded by nearly 7 percent over the past 40 years — threatens his Central Asian nation.

"We are very worried that the climate is changing," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Mr. Enkhsaikhan said two years of drought has cost Mongolia some 6 million head of livestock, about 15 percent of the national herd. He also noted that average temperatures have cooled.

Mr. Enkhsaikhan said, "For the nomadic population, the question is, 'How can they survive the climate change?´"

Mr. Enkhsaikhan had also come to Washington to re-emphasize that Mongolia is a U.N.-recognized nuclear-weapon-free zone. In 2000, the five nuclear powers released a statement at the United Nations, pledging to respect that status.

However, Mongolia is pressing for more. The country freed itself of nuclear weapons in 1992 after the withdrawal of Soviet troops, invited into the country by an earlier communist government in the 1960s.

"A declaration is one thing," Mr. Enkhsaikhan said. "We´re trying to get something that is legally binding."

When he is not preoccupied with these weighty matters, Mr. Enkhsaikhan practices a little cultural diplomacy by promoting Mongolian culture. He mentioned that a Mongolian troupe is due to perform at the Kennedy Center on June 11, at the Freer and Sackler Galleries on June 13, and at the Rock Creek Festival on June 14.

He is also organizing a June festival in New York´s Central Park to celebrate Mongolia´s nomadic tradition.

"The nomadic way of life," he said, " is closer to nature."

Message to Washington

The U.S. ambassador to Egypt yesterday said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has "serious concerns" about the escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"President Mubarak asked me to convey to Washington his serious concern about the situation in the region and his hope that the United States would play an active role in order to bring about an end of the violence," Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told reporters after a meeting with Mr. Mubarak.

Mr. Kurtzer added that he expects the Mitchell report, which was released in Washington yesterday, will help lay out U.S. policy in the Middle East.

"I think that in the course of the next few days I hope you get a better sense of what our policy is and what activities we undertake," he said.

The Mitchell committee, chaired by former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell of Maine, was established in October after the beginning of the latest surge in violence, that has so far claimed more than 560 lives, most of them Palestinians.

Mr. Mubarak on Sunday said that he feared the situation is "deteriorating in a serious manner and will get more complicated."

"I fear it might reach a point of no return," he added. "What is happening will lead to a catastrophe and harm the interests of foreign powers in the region."

Blaming Israel for the "excessive use of force," Mr. Mubarak predicted "vengeance will continue and the situation will further deteriorate if the other countries don´t intervene to persuade these (Israelis) to calm things down."

Burns to NATO

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, is President Bush´s choice to serve as ambassador to NATO.

If confirmed by the Senate, the career diplomat would replace Alexander Vershbow, whom Mr. Bush selected to be ambassador to Russia.

Mr. Burns has been ambassador in Athens since 1997. He served as State Department spokesman from 1995 to 1997 and was a member of the National Security Council under Mr. Bush´s father.

Mr. Bush is due to visit NATO headquarters in Brussels next month.

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