- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

In the hands of Allah

The former Pakistani ambassador to the United States is tackling his risky new position as the U.N. envoy in Iraq with a mix of caution and hope.

Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, whose predecessor Sergio Vieira de Mello was killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad a year ago, said farewell this week to Washington friends at a Pakistani Embassy reception.

In an interview with United Press International, Mr. Qazi this week said the United Nations is taking “the necessary precautions” to resume operations in the Iraqi capital.

Asked about concerns for his personal safety, he replied: “One is so busy, one did not have the time to worry. Life and death is in the hands of Allah.”

Mr. Qazi said his primary concern is for the Iraqi people “who have suffered so much.”

The ambassador, who served two years as Pakistan’s envoy in Washington, met last month in Baghdad with Iraqi leaders representing rival Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, political opposition groups, women’s organizations and relief agencies.

“The Iraqi people are welcoming the return of the United Nations to Baghdad,” Mr. Qazi said. “They have high hopes of having free and credible elections, of promoting dialogue and reconciliation.”

He described the U.N. agenda as “fairly broad” with a focus on preparing for an election next year, establishing a constitutional government and promoting the reconstruction of the country.

He praised Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani for his support of democracy and said he is prepared to meet with rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

“We are open to seeing everybody,” Mr. Qazi said. “Our doors are open to anybody who wants to see us.”

The ambassador expressed his hopes for the eventual stability of the country.

“It is a wealthy country,” he said, “and the Iraqis know that peace will bring prosperity for all.”

Cyprus bound

Washington may never be the same when Cypriot diplomat Miltos Miltiadou returns home tomorrow after 15 years as the chief spokesman for the Cypriot Embassy.

Mr. Miltiadou was a fixture on Embassy Row, known to diplomats and reporters alike as a suave raconteur who always had a story to tell — some that could not be printed. He was a militant defender of his divided homeland, a generous host and, some say, a lady’s man.

He described himself as a “family man” who could not find a wife but had plenty of girlfriends.

The 52-year-old diplomat left Cyprus in 1970 to study in the United States and later got a job as embassy spokesman in Washington, then at the United Nations and then in Washington again. He is returning to the foreign ministry for a new assignment.

“When I left, Cyprus was whole,” he said yesterday.

Cyprus has been divided between ethnic Greeks and Turks since 1975 and has defied countless diplomatic efforts to reunite it.

However, Mr. Miltiadou said he is still optimistic that Cyprus will be one nation again someday.

He grew up in what he described as a “small, mixed community now in the occupied area,” a reference to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. His father was a tailor who had many Turkish-Cypriot customers.

Mr. Miltiadou sees a new hope for Cyprus, now that the Greek part of the island has been admitted to the European Union and the Turkish part has opened the border between the two communities. Both parts are also under new generations of leaders.

“There is a positive climate and a lot of positive attitudes on Cyprus,” he said.

Mr. Miltiadou served five ambassadors in Washington and one in New York.

“I am grateful and honored to have represented by country. … It’s been a long and fascinating journey,” he said.

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

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