Friday, May 4, 2001

Private diplomacy
Middle East Insight practiced a little private diplomacy this week by arranging a small dinner for Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the Northwest Washington home of a former Clinton adviser.
George Nader, president of the Washington-based think tank, and Jonathan Kessler, the executive director, invited Arab-American members of Congress, Arab-American businessmen and current and former U.S. diplomats to meet Mr. Peres.
The dinner at the home of Mark and Nancy Penn gave Mr. Peres a chance to talk privately and informally on all of the issues facing Israel and its Arab neighbors, Mr. Kessler said.
Mr. Peres made a short opening remark and sat for more than two hours taking questions from the 30 dinner guests.
At one point, former President Clinton called and Mr. Peres chatted with him for about 10 minutes on the kitchen telephone.
Mr. Peres told the guests, “Im not here to speak at you.”
He recalled that former Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey once told an audience that he had more answers than they had questions.
Mr. Peres said he “approached the dinner from the opposite” position.
“I see this as a opportunity for genuine dialogue,” he said.
Mr. Kessler described the questions from the guests as “hard-hitting but courteous.” Afterward, one Palestinian-American thanked Mr. Peres for attending the dinner but added that he disagreed with just about everything the Israeli official said.
The guests included three Arab-American members of the House Democrat Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia and Republicans Darrell Issa of California and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.
The Arab-American businessmen included George Salem, founder of the United Palestine Appeal. Diplomats included Philip Wilcox, former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, and Gamal Helal of the State Departments Near East bureau.
Mr. Penn described the evening as “prospecting for peace on the Potomac.”

Life for Milosevic
The new Yugoslav ambassador predicts that former dictator Slobodan Milosevic will spend the rest of his life in prison after his trial for war crimes and corruption in Yugoslavia.
Ambassador Milan Protic told Reuters news agency this week that conviction on the charges will carry a maximum 20-year sentence.
“Since he is 59, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. No question about it. One way or the other,” Mr. Protic said.
“He is going to be tried for everything he is accountable for, from abuse of power and political assassinations in Serbia and war crimes. …
“And if all of that is not satisfactory, we can discuss the extradition of Milosevic after weve finished with him.”
First, Yugoslavs need to try him at home before deciding whether to send him on to the U.N. war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, he said.
“We are ready to go as far as possible in meeting the expectations of the international community but Milosevic himself is a little bit of a different case,” Mr. Protic said.
“For us its a historical moment. … We strongly believe that a trial in Belgrade is much more important for us than a trial in The Hague is for the international community.
“If we were to send him to The Hague … before he faces his own misdeeds in the country, it would mean that we were giving up that historical moment of truth.”

Religious envoy
The latest whisper on the diplomatic grapevine concerns Elliot Abrams, that whipping boy of liberals still angry over the Iran-Contra affair.
United Press International says President Bush might offer Mr. Abrams the position of roving envoy for religious freedom. The job would carry the rank of ambassador.
Mr. Abrams, chairman of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, has been meeting with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
“Reaganites think it is time for Abrams to be rehabilitated after running afoul of the Iran-Contra inquiries.”
Mr. Abrams, assistant secretary of state for Latin America under President Reagan, was indicted and later pardoned for his role in helping to supply the anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua.

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