- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

Trading places, again

Irish Ambassador Sean O'Huiginn will celebrate his last St. Patrick's Day in Washington next month, as he prepares for a new assignment as ambassador to Germany.

He will replace Ambassador Noel Fahey, who will take the ambassadorial position here.

This change will mark the second time Mr. O'Huiginn has traded places. He arrived in Washington in 1997 to replace Dermot Gallagher, who took Mr. O'Huiginn's old position as director of Anglo-Irish affairs in the Foreign Ministry.

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen announced the switch on Tuesday, along with 12 other new ambassadorial assignments.

Mr. O'Huiginn became Ireland's point man in Washington as the Clinton administration began its engagement in Northern Ireland diplomatic affairs that led to the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

"I feel very privileged to have served as Irish ambassador to Washington over the last five years," Mr. O'Huiginn told Embassy Row yesterday.

He praised both President Clinton and President Bush for efforts to bring peace between Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities.

"My term here coincided with the extraordinarily helpful role of President Clinton, and now of President Bush, in consolidating the peace process in Ireland. It has been a great personal experience for my wife and myself," he said.

"Ireland's relationship with Germany is also a very crucial one for us, particularly in the European Union context, and I look forward very much to the different challenges of that appointment."

Washington officials have high regard for Mr. O'Huiginn, who apparently had only one problem with Americans: They couldn't spell his name.

When he first arrived here, the ambassador had adopted the Irish Gaelic style of Sean O hUiginn. Soon invitations to embassy events reflected the more standard spelling, O'Huiginn.

"The frustration finally got to him," one diplomat said yesterday, jokingly, of course.

Food for Zimbabwe

The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, declaring support for the country's hungry, yesterday announced the donation of $11.8 million in American food aid.

"While we may have differences with the government of Zimbabwe, we will never abandon the Zimbabwean people who are going hungry at this time," Ambassador Joseph Sullivan told reporters in the capital, Harare.

Mr. Sullivan said the United States reached an agreement with the government that the food be distributed outside of political organizations to prevent supporters of authoritarian President Robert Mugabe from using food as a weapon against political opponents. Mr. Mugabe has faced international criticism for efforts to suppress opposition in next month's presidential election.

"We expect and trust that this distribution is done in a nonpartisan manner and that the neediest of the needy get the food," Mr. Sullivan said.

Agence France-Presse said the U.S. aid amounts to about one-fifth of the food requested by the U.N. World Food Program to prevent a famine in Zimbabwe.

Nepal's terrorists

Nepal's so-called Maoist rebels are nothing more than terrorists like the followers of Osama bin Laden, says the U.S. ambassador to the Himalayan kingdom.

"The Maoists, under the guise of Maoism and their so-called people's war, are fundamentally the same as the globally recognized terrorists," Ambassador Michael Malinowski told a seminar in the capital, Katmandu.

"They are radicals who seek to impose their narrrow views and beliefs on others, despite the popular will of those they seek to influence and convert."

Mr. Malinowski compared rebels, linked to Nepal's Communist Party, to bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network and to the Abu Sayyaf terrorists of the Philippines.

"There is no peace in Nepal presently, but there are lessons to learn from the present scenario for those within and outside Nepal," he said in his remarks to the opening of a seminar on South Asia peace operations.

The rebels began their uprising in 1996, a year after an elected communist government fell in a vote of no confidence in the Nepalese parliament.

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