- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Afghan envoy ends wait

Ishaq Shahryar, after waiting a month in Washington, officially became the ambassador from Afghanistan yesterday, as he presented diplomatic credentials to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

That step allows him to function as the head of the Afghan Embassy, but he will not be able to lobby Congress or the administration until he presents his credentials to President Bush on June 17.

That is a day after the scheduled meeting of the loya jirga, a summit of Afghan tribal leaders who are expected to adopt a temporary government for the country.

Mr. Shahryar had been anxious to begin his job since arriving in Washington in late April.

"He was complaining privately. He could not contact business people. He had many top priorities. He couldn't understand why he was kept cooling his heels," said one Washington insider close to Mr. Shahryar.

But Afghan Embassy spokesman Tom Lauria, speaking officially, insisted there was no problem. "We don't know of any delay. We understand it moved faster than normal," he said.

Mr. Shahryar, an Afghan immigrant, became a successful high-tech businessman in the solar-energy field in California. He gave up his American citizenship to represent his country as ambassador.

"My role is to help Afghanistan enter the 21st century," he said in a statement yesterday. "It's my mission to take my business skills and help revolutionize the Afghan economy."

Mr. Shahryar was an adviser to former Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah for five years and was a key participant in the negotiations last year that led to the establishment of an interim government under Hamid Karzai.

When he presents his credentials to Mr. Bush, he will read a poem written by his 10-year-old daughter, Jahan, dedicated to the victims of September 11.

Her poem reads:

"In the airplane clean and warm souls sat,

In the hijackers' heart was a big ball of hate,

In the World Trade Center people went about their day.

Tears fill our eyes,

America cries,

But we still stand as

A Land of Freedom."

Afghanistan also announced it will soon reopen its former embassy at 24th Street and Wyoming Avenue NW, which was closed in 1997 and has been under extensive structural renovation.

Edge of the abyss

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meets President Bush in Washington this week as the Middle East teeters on the "edge of the abyss," a top aide to the Egyptian leader said yesterday.

"The timing of this meeting is crucial," Nabil Osman told a group of journalists at a luncheon. "The Middle East is at the edge of the abyss. We are facing one of the bleakest chapters of Middle East history, especially after the Israeli incursion [into the West Bank], which introduced very dangerous new elements into the area. They are threatening to engulf the area and spill over into other areas.

"There are so many visions, so many frameworks [for Middle East peace] on the table that you don't know which one to choose. What is needed is a unified approach. This visit could be a catalyst in reaching such a unified approach," he said.

Mr. Mubarak, who meets Mr. Bush at the White House tomorrow and at Camp David on Friday and Saturday, will discuss plans for an international Middle East conference being organized by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his counterparts in Russia and the European Union.

Mr. Mubarak will tell Mr. Bush that the conference must be not be a "photo op, a morale booster," but one that will lead to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, said Mr. Osman, director of Egypt's State Information Service.

"An international conference without proper preparations will be a failure, a catastrophe," he said. "What is required is a well-defined agenda, a well-defined framework and probably a timetable for peace talks to start and end. It must set a solid basis for further negotiations."

Mr. Mubarak will urge the United States to play a "pivotal" role in promoting peace between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is set to meet Mr. Bush on Monday.

"If we leave Arafat and Sharon on their own, things will go nowhere," Mr. Osman said.

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