- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Diplomats in dark mood
Foreign diplomats in Washington yesterday tried to attend to business as they watched the war in Iraq unfold on television.
Some whose countries opposed the war expressed sadness. Others whose countries supported the United States said the action was necessary but still felt anxiety over the bombing.
Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova, whose country is part of the U.S.-led coalition, had been on the phone all night with reporters from Bulgaria. She told them about the politics on Capitol Hill and how Washington was reacting to the initial reports of the early bombing.
"I'm talking to you with a heavy heart," she told Embassy Row.
Mrs. Poptodorova said Bulgaria, like other Eastern European nations, knows the trauma of living under a dictatorship and realizes that sometimes the only way to remove a tyrant is by force.
She said she was disappointed by the "inability of the [U.N.] Security Council to act."
"Had there been unity, Saddam would have acted differently," she said. "It's not a failure of diplomacy. Diplomacy went to the end."
The ambassador said she was trying to balance her attention to the war as it unfolded on CNN and her duty to attend to embassy business. She had a State Department meeting yesterday afternoon concerning Bulgaria's preparation for NATO membership.
"Strangely enough," she said, "I feel my mind working in two halves. I am watching the development of the war and trying to take care of business."
Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, whose country opposes the war, recalled the many conflicts he has seen in the Middle East and expressed his "personal frustration" of seeing another one.
"In the case of war, I don't really see a best-case scenario," he said. However, he added, a "worst-case scenario will be a nightmare."
The anxiety in the Muslim world will not ease until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved, he said.
"We must address the anxiety. … We must prevent people from taking advantage of this to promote terrorism," he said. "The Middle East peace process will be key."
Egyptian Embassy spokesman Hesham Elnakib described a "very dark mood" among his fellow diplomats.
"People feel very sad and frustrated," he said.
Mr. Elnakib said he found the same mood among American friends over lunch at La Tomate and at a nearby Starbuck's.
"The mood is not so different here from how it is in Cairo," he said.
French diplomat Nathalie Loiseau said, "When war breaks out, all you can do is be sad. … We can only be sad that the path of a peaceful solution has not been chosen."
Ms. Loiseau expressed her frustration at the way France has been treated in many news reports and by television commentators who have savaged French President Jacques Chirac for his strident criticism of President Bush.
"Yes, there have been insulting articles, silly jokes and bad comments on France and the two world wars," she said.

U.S. embassies close
The United States closed diplomatic missions or cut back their services in more than a dozen countries because of security concerns over the war in Iraq.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said certain embassies and consulates were closed for "local security reasons, possibility of demonstrations or existing demonstrations that may not threaten the post, itself, but may threaten Americans who might be coming and going or people who might be waiting outside."
He said embassies and consulates were closed in Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, South Africa and Syria. Services were cut back in Brazil, France and Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opened a hearing on embassy security.
"Terrorists who seek to harm the United States but who lack the means to directly attack our homeland have often shifted their focus to U.S. diplomatic posts overseas," said committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican.
Diplomats are on the "front lines in the war on terrorism," he added, noting recent attacks on U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Congress has earmarked about $860 million to rebuild old embassies in the most dangerous locations.

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