- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Diplomatic duty

Outgoing German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger thinks German-American relations deteriorated before the war in Iraq because of a “massive misunderstanding” in Washington and Berlin.

“There was a massive misunderstanding which led on both sides to a degree of frustration and bitterness and disappointment which I think with better, more intensive communication could probably have been avoided,” the ambassador said in an interview with Roland Flamini, chief foreign correspondent for United Press International.

Mr. Ischinger, who ended his diplomatic tour in Washington yesterday after nearly five years, said the lowest point in his tenure here was between January and May of 2003, just before and during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, who was the chancellor at the time, whipped up anti-American feelings in his re-election campaign.

Mr. Ischinger said he “tried to put on a friendly face” with administration officials, even after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld compared Germany’s attitude to the war in Iraq to Libya’s.

“I think quite honestly that Secretary Rumsfeld made a mistake by actually — I should use a better word than insulting — let us say not speaking correctly about Germany,” Mr. Ischinger said.

Speaking of future threats, the ambassador said events in the Middle East will “define the fate of Europe.” He listed the “unsettled issues of radical extremism, of peace and civility in the greater Middle East, the Palestinian issue, the Iraq issue, the Iran issue, nuclear proliferation, Hamas.

“Imagine if there is a Shi’ite nuclear bomb …. How long will it take before there will be a Sunni nuclear bomb?” he asked.

Mr. Ischinger is scheduled to move to London to serve as the German ambassador to Britain. His successor in Washington, Klaus Scharioth, presented his credentials to President Bush yesterday.

Trading with Malaysia

A major U.S.-Asian business organization applauded the start of free-trade talks between the United States and Malaysia and predicted that the pact will boost the economies in both nations.

“We are very pleased to see our governments moving forward on this initiative. The trade and investment benefits to the U.S. are obvious,” said Matthew Daley, president of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations represents Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Malaysia is the United States’ 10th-largest trading partner, with $44 billion in bilateral business. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz announced the beginning of trade talks in Washington last week.

Mr. Daley led a delegation of business executives to Malaysia last year to discuss the idea of a free-trade deal with government officials there.

“A free-trade agreement with Malaysia will represent a broadening and deepening of a relationship central to our economic interests in the region,” he said.

Lebanon’s night

When the American Task Force for Lebanon says it’s going to put on a “gala” event, ambassadors from around the world mark their calendars.

Thursday, the group will honor Lebanese-American actor Tony Shalhoub, who plays a private detective on the TV show “Monk,” at the 2006 “Gala Awards Night.”

The list from Embassy Row is a long one. It includes Ambassadors Farid Abboud of Lebanon, Abdulwahab al-Hajjri of Yemen, Flavio Dario Espinal of the Dominican Republic and Nabil Fahmy of Egypt. Former U.S. Ambassadors to Lebanon Vincent Battle, to Syria Theodore Kattouf and to Morocco Thomas Nassif also are on the guest list.

Two envoys on the list who are not quite ambassadors are Ali Suleiman Aujali, chief of the Libyan Liaison Office, and Afif Safieh, the Palestinian representative here.

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

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