- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

Consultant fired

The Saudi ambassador canceled a contract with a government adviser who predicted Saudi Arabia might intervene in Iraq to protect the Sunni Muslim minority that would be vastly outnumbered by Shi’ite Muslims in a full-scale civil war.

Ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal said Nawaf Obaid was a consultant to the Saudi Embassy until he wrote an article last week in The Washington Post, claiming that the Saudi government was considering providing funding, arms and logistical support to Sunni militias.

Prince Turki told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday that he canceled the contract to distance the government from Mr. Obaid, who is also an adjunct fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Although Mr. Obaid wrote that he was expressing his personal views, many observers thought he had the approval of the Saudi government to leak the information as a warning to brutal Shi’ite militias that mount daily attacks against Sunnis and to the Iranian government that funds the militias.

Sunnis, who also wage daily war against Shi’ites, ignited the wave of violence by blowing up a revered Shi’ite mosque in February.

“Mr. Obaid did some consultancy work for the embassy,” Prince Turki said. “And in order to [show], as he explained in his article, that he was expressing his views on these issues and to make sure that nobody misunderstands where Saudi Arabia and the embassy stand on that issue, we terminated our consultancy work with him.”

Prince Turki insisted that Saudi Arabia is engaged with all factions in Iraq in an attempt to promote reconciliation and stability.

He also cautioned against a regional conference involving Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, another nation fueling Shi’ite terrorism.

“If there is going to be a conference, it will have to be predicated on very specific targets,” Prince Turki said. “You simply can’t just have a conference for the sake of having a conference.”

Rockin’ for firemen

Hungary’s rock ‘n’ roll ambassador raised $37,000 for the families of three Hungarian firemen who died in August, as he performed with business executives with guitars and drums and one former rock star who is now a Defense Department adviser.

The odd combination of middle-aged musicians makes up Ambassador Andras Simonyi‘s latest lineup of members of his band, the Coalition of the Willing. Named for U.S.-led coalition of nations that sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, the band has included U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, now the envoy to South Korea, on drums. Mr. Simonyi, who plays guitar, and Mr. Vershbow met when they served as ambassadors to NATO and formed the band to promote diplomacy through music.

The Friday night performance at the Hungarian Embassy drew distinguished Washington guests such as Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, and Andrew C. von Eschenbach, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Ambassadors Mario Gustavo Guzman Saldana of Bolivia, Jose Guillermo Castillo Villacorta of Guatemala, Ryozo Kato of Japan and John Lowell of Malta.

Sandor Demjan, president of the Hungarian Federation of Employers, donated $5,000 to each of the families of the firefighters who died during a rescue operation in Budapest.

The band included Lincoln Bloomfield, president of the international business advisory firm of Palmer Coates LLC and a former assistant secretary of state, on bass; Daniel Poneman, a former presidential aide and now with the Scowcroft Group, on guitar; and Daniel McDermott, executive director of the Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board that promotes jobs in five Maryland counties, on drums.

The former rock star, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, played guitar for the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan and now advises the Defense Department on counterterrorism and national-security issues.

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

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