- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sri Lanka’s alarm

The peace envoy from Sri Lanka left Washington yesterday satisfied that U.S. officials understood the renewed danger his South Asian nation faces from a vicious rebel army accused of killing the foreign minister and repeatedly violating a cease-fire.

“I am confident I had a receptive audience,” Jayantha Dhanapala told Embassy Row.

Mr. Dhanapala, Sri Lanka’s ambassador here from 1995 to 1997, appealed to Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, for urgent action to punish the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

He said his government has evidence that the Tigers assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar last month. The Tigers broke off peace talks in 2003 and repeatedly have violated a cease-fire reached a year earlier.

Mr. Dhanapala said he asked the United States to take tougher measures against the Tigers, already included on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, by shutting down front groups and deporting Sri Lankans who secretly are raising money for the rebels. He also asked Washington to apply pressure on the European Union and Canada to move against Tiger support groups. In addition to the United States, only Australia, Britain and India treat the Tigers as terrorists.

Mr. Dhanapala, director of Sri Lanka’s Peace Secretariat, said his government has no alternative to the pursuit of a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

“We cannot abandon the peace process. To do so would plunge the country into chaos,” he said. “We have no alternative to negotiations [with the rebels] no matter however reprehensible their behavior may be.”

Mr. Dhanapala also used his visit to promote his candidacy for secretary-general of the United Nations. His qualifications include a high-profile diplomatic career that began in 1965. He served as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to U.N. operations in Geneva and Vienna in 1984 and later as director of the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research. He was undersecretary-general for U.N. disarmament affairs from 1998 until 2003.

Mr. Dhanapala also developed what he called a “cordial relationship” with John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, when he was undersecretary of state for arms control.

Mr. Dhanapala said he strongly supports fundamental reform at the United Nations.

“Clearly there is a management crisis at the U.N.,” he said.

He insisted he was not campaigning for the top U.N. post during his Washington visit but just letting U.S. officials know that he is a candidate.

“I don’t believe in a high-profile political campaign,” he said. “Candidates must conduct themselves in a quiet and dignified way.”

Afghan self-reliance

The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan is urging Afghans to rely on themselves instead of foreigners to repair their country.

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann told Afghans to look to the members of the new parliament they will elect on Sunday for the decisions that will lead to the revival of a country long burdened by conflict and dictatorship.

“Don’t look only at the foreigner,” he said on a visit Monday to the town of Gardez. “Your elected representatives will be your voice. So the people of Gardez also have to be part of deciding what projects are more important. It should not be just the foreigner who decides.”

Mr. Neumann told reporters traveling with him that the United States, the United Nations and “the international community” remain committed to providing development aid and security. The United States has 20,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting remnants of the former Taliban regime, which sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. NATO has 10,000 peacekeepers stationed there.

“It’s very clear the international community is still solidly here, and the next piece we have to do is to try to … define a little more sharply what the steps need to be,” he said.

“It would be useful to lay down an internationally agreed set of goals and benchmarks.”

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

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