- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

Laughing matter

If many a truth is spoken in jest, the new ambassador from Pakistan gained an insight into President Bush when he presented his diplomatic credentials at the White House last month.

“The president asked me what I did before Washington,” Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.

“I said, ‘Sir, I was having fun.’ He was taken aback for a moment, and then he leaned forward and said, ‘So was I.’”

The retired major general recently was a member of the governing board of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and worked in a nongovernmental organization that promoted peace between Pakistan and its South Asian rival, India. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, also a general, called him back from retirement to serve as his principal voice in Washington.

Mr. Durrani listed a “broad agenda” of goals he is pursuing here as ambassador from one of Washington’s key partners in the war on terrorism. He said the occasionally rocky relations between Pakistan and the United States are “much like a yo-yo: they go up and down.”

“We want to expand our relations,” he said, adding he wants to promote “people-to-people” contacts and investment and trade issues.

“Counterterrorism is at the core of our relations,” he added. “Unfortunately, that is one of the problems.”

After less than a month as ambassador, Mr. Durrani said he has already heard frequent demands for Pakistan to increase its efforts to capture terrorists, especially Osama bin Laden, who some U.S. officials think is hiding in remote border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He even heard those complaints before he was appointed ambassador.

Last year on a Washington visit, he held talks with Christina Rocca, then assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs.

“She said we should do more. I said that I was sick of hearing that,” Mr. Durrani recalled. “We are doing more than our best. For God’s sake, don’t doubt our commitment.”

Kyrgyz ‘non grata’

The United States this week ordered two diplomats at the Kyrgyz Embassy to leave the country in retaliation for the expulsion of two American diplomats from the Central Asian nation last month.

“The American side, without providing any explanation, declared two staff members of Kyrgyzstan’s embassy in the USA persona non grata in response to the deportation of two American diplomats from Kyrgyzstan in July,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released in the capital, Bishkek.

The two American diplomats were expelled for what Kyrgyz officials called “inappropriate contacts” with leaders of nongovernmental organizations.

Genocide warning

A Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is angered that President Bush’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Armenia refuses to recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I as genocide.

Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota told the Associated Press this week that he plans to vote against confirming Richard E. Hoagland, a career Foreign Service officer who recently served as ambassador to Tajikistan.

In a committee hearing, Mr. Hoagland followed administration policy by declining to use the word, “genocide,” to describe the killings between 1915 and 1917 by troops of the old Ottoman Turkish Empire.

Mr. Coleman told the AP, “I continue to be troubled by our policy that refuses to recognize what was a historical reality.”

Like previous administrations, the Bush White House declines to call the killings genocide to avoid angering officials of the modern Turkish republic who insist the Armenians died in an uprising.

John Evans, the former U.S. ambassador to Armenia, was forced to resign after he publicly referred to the Armenia genocide.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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