- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Diplomatic dissent

An American diplomat critical of suspected U.S. aid to Somali warlords was transferred from a key post at the embassy in Kenya, where he had helped negotiate an interim government for the embattled nation on the Horn of Africa.

Michael Zorick, the former political affairs officer for Somalia, now is serving in the U.S. Embassy in Chad, said news reports in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Mr. Zorick was transferred for objecting to reportedly secret payments to Somali warlords who agreed to track down suspected al Qaeda terrorists. The Bush administration has denied any such payments, but many Western diplomats and former CIA officials have publicly complained that the program exists.

A spokesman at the embassy in Kenya, which also is responsible Somali affairs, denied that Mr. Zorick was reassigned as punishment for his views.

“There were no unwilling transfers,” Bob Kerr told Reuters news agency, adding that Mr. Zorick was due to leave Kenya later this year but moved in early April after consulting with Ambassador William Bellamy.

Mr. Zorick, who could not be reached for comment, told friends in Kenya that he objected to the payments because they created a backlash among Islamic militants. The so-called “Second Battle of Mogadishu” broke out last month between the warlords and Islamic militias in the Somali capital.

“He felt it was wrong in the sense that it didn’t achieve the objectives,” one diplomat, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

Marika Fahlen, Sweden’s envoy for Somalian affairs, agreed with Mr. Zorick.

“We know neither the rationale nor the scale of U.S. involvement. What we do see are the consequences,” she told Newsweek magazine in the edition distributed Monday.

“The fighting is increasingly complex. Certain [Islamist] groups that were not so active in fighting before have become fighters.”

If Mr. Zorick was transferred for objecting to the program, he would be the second U.S. diplomat to be disciplined recently for dissent.

John Evans retired under pressure as ambassador to Armenia this month for defying U.S. policy and using the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of more than 1 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks beginning in 1915.

Meddling denied

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt strongly denied accusations by Egyptian legislators who accused Ambassador Francis Ricciardone of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs.

Members of Egypt’s national assembly last week complained that the ambassador had said the Egyptian government should advance U.S. interests in the Middle East because Washington gives Cairo about $2 billion a year in aid.

“The U.S. ambassador must respect Egypt’s sovereignty and realize that the Egyptian people would not accept such insults,” said Kamal Ahmed, the legislator who first accused Mr. Ricciardone of making such remarks.

Moufeed Shebah, minister of legal affairs and parliamentary councils, called the ambassador’s purported statement a violation of Egypt’s sovereignty and interference in the country’s internal affairs.

The embassy unequivocally denied that Mr. Ricciardone had ever uttered such sentiments.

“Allegations reportedly raised in the Egyptian People’s Assembly regarding statements by the U.S. Ambassador have no basis in fact and bear no resemblance to public or private comments by the Ambassador or other members of the Embassy,” it said in a statement posted on Web site, https://cairo.usembassy.gov.

“The United States provides economic and military assistance for programs supporting priorities of the Government of Egypt, by mutual agreement with the United States, to advance our shared interests in strengthening peace, democracy and prosperity in Egypt and the region.”

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

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