- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Bruton new EU envoy

The European Union yesterday named former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton as its new ambassador to the United States in a move that the union hopes will help improve relations with Washington.

Mr. Bruton, credited with promoting peace in Northern Ireland and spurring the economic boom that turned Ireland into the “Celtic Tiger” of the 1990s, worked closely with President Clinton and is well-known on Capitol Hill.

The EU said it hopes his appointment will “raise the profile of the European Union in the United States.” EU opposition to the war in Iraq created tensions between Washington and Brussels, the headquarters of the 25-nation body, although many nations supported the Bush administration.

“The [European Union] looks forward to welcoming Mr. Bruton and hopes his appointment will lead to a further strengthening of EU-U.S. ties and to deeper mutual understanding in this indispensable partnership,” the union said.

Mr. Bruton is expected to take up his post in November, replacing Ambassador Guenter Burghardt, a low-key career diplomat who held the position since January 2000.

As prime minister from 1994 to 1997, Mr. Bruton cut corporate and individual income taxes, a move that led to an annual growth rate of 8 percent to 9 percent. Mr. Bruton led Fine Gael, often described as a socially liberal but fiscally conservative party.

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen yesterday said Mr. Bruton’s nomination is a “very positive development for Europe and an honor for Ireland.”

Ayalon denies spying

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon has categorically denied that his government is spying on the United States, dismissing press reports of an FBI investigation as a “nonissue.”

Mr. Ayalon told TV interviewer John McLaughlin, “I can tell you here … categorically and very authoritatively, Israel does not spy on the United States, nor do we gather any intelligence on the U.S.”

He said Israel — about 20 years ago, after American Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel — pledged that it never again would engage in such activity.

“After the Pollard case … we took a strategic decision not to do any kind of intelligence gathering of that type on the United States, and we adhere to it, and we don’t ever want anything which will be remotely close to such activity because of the unique relationship between Israel and the United States,” he said on “John McLaughlin: One on One” last week.

Press reports said the FBI suspects a Defense Department official might have given classified materials to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which passed them on to Israel. AIPAC said it never knowingly received classified material.

Mr. Ayalon dismissed the reports as “anonymous leaks” from “faceless sources.”

Mr. Ayalon also warned of the dangers that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program poses to Israel and even Europe, if the regime develops longer-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

“A nuclear Iran will change completely the landscape of the Middle East and … beyond,” Mr. Ayalon said. “It’s not just an existential threat for Israel but for all the countries in the Middle East and … the world.”

He said the United States and the “entire international community” will be “gravely affected.”

He added that Iran must be stopped from developing nuclear weapons but declined to say whether Israel would take unilateral action to destroy the nuclear sites, as it did in Iraq in the 1980s.

Mr. Ayalon said Iran poses a “very unique case” because of its support of terrorism.

“They harbor terrorists. They shelter terrorists. They export terrorism. They train terrorists. They finance terrorism,” he said.

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

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