- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Bandar on vacation

The Saudi Embassy is trying to dispel rumors that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the most senior foreign ambassador in Washington, has resigned, although privately some Saudi officials are unsure of his current status.

“The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia wishes to confirm that … Prince Bandar bin Sultan continues in his position as ambassador to the United States,” the embassy said. “Prince Bandar is currently on vacation and is expected to return to his office at the end of August.”

Prince Bandar is vacationing at his country estate in England.

Since the rumors were first reported over the weekend by NBC, the embassy has been peppered with calls from reporters and friends of the ambassador.

The rumors continued in diplomatic circles yesterday. One Asian ambassador said he was told by a Saudi friend that Prince Bandar had, indeed, offered his resignation and was expected to be appointed as interior minister to lead the fight against domestic terrorism.

Another Saudi source said such an appointment is unlikely. The source also discounted another report that Prince Bandar would be named as head of the Saudi intelligence service.

The source also dismissed rumors that Prince Bandar’s half-brother would replace him as ambassador in Washington. Salman bin Sultan, the half-brother, is an administrative attache at the embassy.

Prince Bandar, formally “dean of the diplomatic corps,” has been a major player on the Washington scene since he presented his diplomatic credentials to President Reagan on Oct. 24, 1983. Prince Bandar has maintained a close relationship with every U.S. president since then.

Egyptian democracy

Jihan Sadat, widow of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, says she supports Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s forceful remarks last week calling for serious steps toward democracy in the Middle East.

Mrs. Sadat is in Washington to open a convention of the American Association of University Women. She is a leading figure in the international women’s rights movement, having been behind the 1975 Civil Rights Laws that granted women vital freedoms in Egypt.

Her remarks follow Miss Rice’s comments last week in Egypt, where she vociferously called for democracy in that country and Saudi Arabia in particular.

Mrs. Sadat cited the lack of education as the primary challenge that women in the Arab and Muslim world face.

“Education will take the women of the Arab world forward and make them active participants in society,” she told our correspondent Raza Naqvi.

Mrs. Sadat said she was not surprised by Miss Rice’s comments, citing her “strength” and “poise” as qualities that allowed her to make such bold statements.

Having worked with Muslim women throughout her career, Mrs. Sadat dispelled common perceptions of the treatment of women in Islam.

“It is not Islam but traditions that oppress women,” she said.

Mr. Sadat was assassinated Oct. 6, 1981, by Islamic extremists enraged over a peace treaty he signed with Israel two years earlier.

Today, another Egyptian human rights advocate is in Washington to discuss the condition of women in Egypt.

Mona Zulficar, a lawyer and member of the National Council for Human Rights and the National Council for Women, will address invited guests of the Middle East Institute.

“She has long campaigned to improve human rights conditions and the legal status of Egyptian women and families,” said Laurie Kassman, a spokeswoman for the institute.

“Her campaign for modification of the marriage contract and equal rights for women to divorce unilaterally stirred debates in the press and at the highest echelons of Egypt’s religious authorities.”

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

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