- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

New Iraqi envoy

Iraq’s new ambassador to the United States arrived in Washington yesterday to take up office in the Iraqi Embassy in Dupont Circle as the country’s first envoy to the United States in 15 years.

Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaidaie, Iraq’s representative to the United Nations since August 2004, left New York briefly last week to present his diplomatic credentials to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is scheduled to meet soon with President Bush.

Mr. Sumaidaie told Miss Rice that Iraqis appreciate the United States for overthrowing dictator Saddam Hussein and supporting the “aspirations of the people of Iraq for democracy, freedom and a better life.”

“I am honored and delighted to be here today as the first ambassador for the state of Iraq in 15 years and the first ambassador since we got rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein with your help,” he said.

Mr. Sumaidaie suffered a personal loss from the turmoil in his country when U.S. Marines last year killed his brother, Mohammed, in an action that U.S. authorities described as self-defense. The ambassador told Reuters news agency last week that he would not dispute the findings until he reads the report of the investigation.

When Mr. Sumaidaie pulled up his chair to his desk at the embassy yesterday, his simple act was symbolic of how far the two nations have come since the United States broke diplomatic relations with Saddam after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The United States restored ties in June 2004 and sent John D. Negroponte, now director of national intelligence, to Baghdad as ambassador. Zalmay Khalilzad replaced him a year later.

In his first interview as ambassador to the United States, Mr. Sumaidaie told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he thinks the United States and Britain have a legitimate concern in the tense political negotiations to form a new Iraqi government.

“I don’t believe it could be described as improper interference,” he said. “The United States and Britain have invested a great deal in this project in Iraq. They’ve invested blood and treasure, and they have a right to have a say.

“But it’s not undermining the democratic process. The democratic process is going on, and consultations are intensive between the Iraqi players, and that is what’s going to produce the result.”

Mr. Sumaidaie, who is married and has five children, served as interior minister in charge of a security force of 120,000 men before his U.N. assignment. An opponent of Saddam’s regime, he left Iraq in 1973 and lived in exile in London, where he helped organize other foes of the dictator.

Border control

Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay is confident that the new Conservative government in his country can work with the Bush administration to find a convenient and secure way to meet U.S. demands for border control without disrupting the massive flow of daily traffic between the countries.

He said his meeting last week with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “established a much better line of communication, I believe, that without sounding partisan the previous government perhaps could have done to engage at an earlier stage.” The Liberal government frequently denounced the new U.S. border rules.

Miss Rice, in a press conference with Mr. MacKay in Washington, expressed confidence “that we can arrange for something that is secure and that allows travel to continue without a detrimental effect” on the border crossings. She said she gave her “assurance” that Canada will be fully informed of the details of the implementation of the new U.S. border law. It will require passports or other secure forms of identification for all air and sea travel into the United States by Dec. 31 and for all land travel by Dec. 31, 2007.

Travel statistics dramatize the potential for disruption: 300,000 Canadians and Americans cross the 3,000-mile-long border daily; a truck makes a crossing every two seconds; and the two countries do nearly $2 billion in trade a day.

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

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