- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Making the grade

The ambassador who tangles with Venezuela’s anti-American president and the envoy who just brought North Korea back to multiparty talks on its nuclear weapons program are among the five U.S. Foreign Service officers nominated for promotion to the second-highest rank for career diplomats.

President Bush has approved the selection of William R. Brownfield, ambassador to Venezuela, Christopher R. Hill, the envoy to the North Korea talks, Katherine H. Canavan, ambassador to Botswana, Cameron Hume, charge d’affaires in Sudan, and George M. Staples, director-general of the Foreign Service, for the grade of career minister.

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The elite title is one step below career ambassador. A cable listing the nominations was obtained by our correspondent Nicholas Kralev. The nominations normally are not announced until after the Senate has approved the promotions.

Mr. Brownfield has held the most dangerous job among the group. He has been threatened by President Hugo Chavez’s supporters, who attacked his car in April when he traveled to a small town to hand out baseball equipment to a youth league. Mr. Chavez accused Mr. Brownfield of provoking the attack. He also threatened to expel the ambassador.

“Start packing your bags, mister. If you keep on provoking us, start packing your bags because I’ll kick you out of here,” Mr. Chavez said.

Mr. Brownfield, ambassador there since August 2004, has mostly tried to defuse tensions between the United States and Venezuela, one of the world’s top oil producers. He repeatedly has responded to Mr. Chavez’s rantings about U.S. conspiracies and plans for invasions by assuring the Venezuelan public that Washington has no such designs on their country.

Mr. Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was in China on Tuesday negotiating with North Korean envoys to coax them into returning to talks with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

He served as ambassador to Poland from 2000 to 2004 and to Macedonia from 1996 to 1999.

Mrs. Canavan is a former director of the Foreign Service Institute and former ambassador to Lesotho.

Mr. Hume previously served as deputy inspector general at the State Department and had four assignments with the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.

Mr. Staples is a former political adviser to the commander of NATO and a former ambassador to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Rwanda.

‘Mud wrestling’

France and the United States are in a diplomatic smackdown over the future of NATO, as the alliance prepares for a summit later this month in Latvia.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Victoria J. Nuland predicted a lot of “wrestling and mud wrestling” when the allies try to reconcile differences over whether NATO should permanently expand its mission outside Europe. NATO forces are currently engaged in Afghanistan.

“We want NATO to be able to demonstrate that we have an alliance that is taking on global responsibilities, that it increasingly has the global capabilities to meet those challenges and is doing it in concert with global partners,” Mrs. Nuland told Agence France-Presse at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie warned that expanding the mission will “dilute the natural solidarity between Europeans and North Americans.” Intervention in global conflicts will give the impression of “a campaign … of the West against those who don’t share its views.”

“NATO should remain a Euro-Atlantic organization,” Mrs. Alliot-Marie wrote in the French daily Le Figaro.

Mrs. Nuland added that she expects “tense” discussions as NATO leaders labor to draft a final report from the summit, to be held Nov. 28 and 29.

“Allies are going to spend a lot of time on wrestling and mud wrestling about the words that we use in our NATO documents and communiques,” she said.

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

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