- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Saudi assurance

Saudi officials are trying to reassure the United States that the kingdom is committed to the war on terrorism, as both countries continue to investigate the attack on the U.S. Consulate this week.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal contacted U.S. Ambassador James Oberwetter to express his sympathy over the deaths of five employees in Monday’s attack on the consulate in Jidda, according to a report in the Saudi newspaper, Okaz. The slain employees were foreigners who worked for the consulate.

Prince Saud was quoted as saying that his government “is keen on uprooting terrorism and boosting security and stability to protect the lives of its citizens and foreign residents including Arabs and Westerners.”

Mr. Oberwetter this week said the six-month-old U.S. warning for Americans to leave Saudi Arabia remains in place.

“We look forward to a day when the situation would allow us to pull down that notice,” he told reporters.

Mr. Oberwetter said the attacks will not damage U.S.-Saudi relations.

“The relationship between the United States and the kingdom is secure,” he said. “We will be working together in our fight against terrorism. The war continues. We intend to remain here.”

Frenchman favored

Despite French opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq, the United States is supporting the French candidate for a top position in Europe’s primary human rights forum.

Stephan Minikes, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), this week threw Washington’s weight behind Marc Perrin de Brichambaut to serve as the OSCE’s secretary-general.

“There are several excellent candidates, but we are hopeful that Mr. Perrin de Brichambaut will be successful,” he told reporters at an OSCE meeting in Bulgaria.

Mr. Perrin de Brichambaut has served as director for strategic affairs of the French Ministry of Defense since 1998 and is a former French ambassador to the OSCE. He served as a counselor at the French Embassy in Washington from 1986 to 1988.

The OSCE, which represents 55 nations, must select a new secretary-general by consensus. Two other candidates are running for the position.

Baker coming home

Howard Baker, the U.S. ambassador to Japan for nearly four years, ended speculation about his future this week when he told his hometown newspaper in Tennessee that he will step down soon.

“Mrs. Baker and I have enjoyed our time in Japan very much, but it is time to come home,” the ambassador told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Mr. Baker, 79, had open-heart surgery in August. He told Japanese reporters last month that he is fully recovered.

“I feel better than I had felt in years,” he said.

Mr. Baker is a former three-term Republican senator from Tennessee who also served as Senate majority leader and later as President Reagan’s chief of staff.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, praised Mr. Baker’s “outstanding work.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the outstanding work Howard Baker has done,” he told the Knoxville paper. “The relationship he has built with this critical ally is praiseworthy. He’s the pinnacle of what a public servant should be.”

During Mr. Baker’s term in Tokyo, Japan endorsed the U.S.-led war in Iraq and sent more than 500 troops to help with reconstruction efforts.

President Bush is expected to nominate Thomas Schieffer, a political supporter and former business partner, to replace him. Mr. Schieffer is the U.S. ambassador to Australia.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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