- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

Lebanese outrage

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon angered the government in Beirut by calling for the disarmament of the terrorist group Hezbollah and the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud is expected to contact all foreign ambassadors in Lebanon to warn them against criticizing the internal affairs of the government, after U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman delivered his remarks at a press conference last week, according to news reports from Beirut.

Hezbollah, which operates out of bases in south Lebanon to attack Israel, also denounced Mr. Feltman.

The ambassador urged Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and deploy Lebanese forces to secure the country’s border with Israel.

“It’s the responsibility of the Lebanese government to exercise control over the border area,” he said. “It’s essential that this happens very quickly.”

Mr. Feltman, referring to the disarmament of militias after the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, said, “The disarming of Lebanese militias has been done in the past, so why not again?”

He referred to a U.N. Security Council resolution in September that called on Syria to withdraw its estimated 15,000 troops from Lebanon, which some observers say function as an occupying army to control the Lebanese government. Lebanese officials say the Syrian troops are in the country to prevent a further outbreak of civil war.

Mr. Feltman said, “The Lebanese army is a professional, able force that is capable of deploying throughout the country. One way for Lebanon to assert its sovereignty is for the army to start deploying now in the south.”

Hezbollah reacted angrily, saying, “Once again the U.S. ambassador, like his predecessors who have desecrated our land, exceeds all limits and interferes insolently in Lebanon’s affairs, causing insult to the Lebanese people.”

Schieffer’s new post?

The U.S. ambassador to Australia, a political ally of President Bush‘s, could be named the new envoy to Japan, according to Japan’s Kyodo news service.

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer would replace Ambassador Howard Baker, who is expected to resign after serving more than three years in Tokyo. Mr. Baker, 79, is in good health but had heart surgery in the summer.

Mr. Schieffer is a former Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives and a former business partner of the president’s, when Mr. Bush owned the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Mr. Schieffer said Nov. 4 that he planned to resign from his post in Australia, where he has served for 3 years, but offered to take another position if Mr. Bush wanted him to stay on.

Debt canceled

The United States has written off about $8 million in debt owed by the West African nation of Senegal.

The $7.8 million debt was canceled under an agreement signed by U.S. Ambassador Richard Allan Roth and Economy and Finance Minister Abdoulaye Diop last week.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Jonathan Faull, director-general of justice and home affairs for the European Commission. He joins Asa Hutchinson, homeland security undersecretary, at an 11:45 a.m. press conference at the Ronald Reagan Building to discuss a U.S.-EU policy on border security.

Tomorrow

• Jaime Zabludovsky, a Mexican trade specialist, who participates in an Inter-American Dialogue forum on U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean in a second Bush administration.

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

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