- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Return to Romania

“The old dictator must be turning over in his grave,” David Funderburk said, as he relished the irony of returning to Romania to help dedicate a church in the hometown of Nicolae Ceausescu.

As the U.S. ambassador in Romania in the 1980s, Mr. Funderburk said he was Mr. Ceausescu’s “number-one American enemy” for his outspoken criticism of the Romania leader, who was executed in an anti-communist uprising in 1989.

Mr. Funderburk departs for Romania next week to help open a Baptist church in the village of Scornicesti, where Mr. Ceausescu was born in 1919.

“Even though I have visited Romania several times since my ambassadorship and the fall of Ceausescu, it is especially meaningful for me to return under a new democratic government,” Mr. Funderburk said in e-mail to Embassy Row.

“And I am particularly pleased to return to my second home of Romania to help inaugurate a church in Ceausescu’s hometown and to encourage the government to pass religious laws providing equal freedoms for all religions.”

Mr. Funderburk noted that during his service in Romania, Mr. Ceausescu unleashed a fierce crackdown on religion.

“With the communist regime having stripped many Romanians of their religious faith and with the pressures of secularism and materialism coming from integration into Europe, it is a critical moment to reflect on the need for a restoration of religious and spiritual belief in Romania,” he said.

Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru said yesterday that Mr. Funderburk is remembered in his country for his denunciation of Mr. Ceausescu’s brutality at a time when most Western leaders viewed him as independent from the Soviet Union and overlooked his human rights abuses.

“He was ambassador when the regime was at its worst,” Mr. Ducaru said, adding that Mr. Funderburk is “well-respected in Romania.”

Mr. Ducaru, who noted that Mr. Ceausescu outlawed the Baptist faith, also appreciated the irony of a Baptist church in the dictator’s birthplace.

“It is a historical reparation,” he said.

Saudi’s fear

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal says his government is worried that the violence in Iraq will tear the country apart.

“There seems to be no dynamic now that is pulling the country together. All the dynamics there are pushing the people away from each other,” he told reporters in an interview last week at the Saudi Embassy.

He also feared that a disintegration of Iraq could spark a regionwide conflict, according to a report on his visit by the embassy.

Prince Saud visited Washington for talks with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of his U.S. visit, during which he traveled to New York, where he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations, and to Houston, where he spoke at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

In Houston, he said high oil prices are partially caused by the failure of the United States and other Western nations to build more refineries and by regulations that require different types of fuel for environmental reasons.

He also called on the United States to “pursue stability in the Middle East to prevent unhealthy market speculation, particularly a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Prince Saud said the United States can rely on Saudi Arabia to maintain a steady supply of oil.

“Saudi Arabia has a proven record of meeting its oil production commitments, even during the most volatile times,” he said.

Prince Saud disagreed with the anti-American opinions expressed in several public opinion polls in the Middle East, insisting that “America’s image in the Arab world is basically healthy and likely to improve once the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is justly resolved,” the embassy said.

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

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