- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2006

Horn of a dilemma

Diplomatic dispatches are flying through four countries around the Horn of Africa, involving suspected threats against U.S. officials in Kenya from Islamic terrorists in Somalia, as regional rivals in Ethiopia and Eritrea hurl charges at each other.

All the heated rhetoric reflects fears that the entire region could be drawn into war, spinning out of the anarchy in Somalia, where Islamist militants who control much of the country are deadlocked in peace talks with the weak U.N.-backed interim government. Negotiators from both sides yesterday refused to attend the latest round of talks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya put Americans on alert in that nation and in Ethiopia, after warning about a letter purportedly written by Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia, urging followers to attack U.S. citizens. He is also on both the U.S. and U.N. lists of terrorist leaders.

“These threats specifically mention the execution of suicide explosions in prominent landmarks within Kenya and Ethiopia,” the embassy said. “American citizens are advised to remain vigilant and to use extreme cautions when frequenting prominent places.”

The United States has been on guard since al Qaeda terrorists bombed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Somali Islamists dismissed the letter as propaganda, arguing that no one would write such details if he really intended to commit sabotage or assassinations.

“Those who want to attack us and bring foreign troops to Somalia want to use this cheap trick to get American support,” Ibrahim Hassan Addow, the Islamists’ foreign-affairs specialist, told Reuters news agency in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Two weeks ago, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, president of the Somali interim government, told diplomats that the letter approved his assassination and that of his prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi.

Against this backdrop, tensions mounted between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a border war that killed 70,000 people between 1998 and 2000.

The United States has accused Eritrea of arming the Somali Islamists, while Eritrea denied the charge and claimed that the Bush administration is backing Ethiopia in the still-unresolved border dispute.

In Eritrea yesterday, the U.S. Embassy announced the temporary suspension of tourist and business visas from Dec. 4, complaining that the Eritrean government has yet to issue a visa for a new embassy consular officer.

Twins peak?

The U.S. Embassy in Argentina has had enough of Barbara and Jenna Bush, the first daughters who have made unwanted headlines on their visit to the South American country, according to ABC News.

The Bush twins, who celebrated their 25th birthday over the weekend, are on a private visit but have created a security concern for the embassy, reporters Joe Goldman and Rhonda Schwartz wrote yesterday on ABC’s “The Blotter” blog.

Citing unnamed diplomats, they said “embassy officials ‘strongly suggested’ ” that the twins leave Buenos Aires as soon as possible, but the twins plan to remain until their original departure date on Thursday.

Barbara Bush first made news when her purse and cell phone were snatched at an outdoor restaurant. That scoop, also by ABC, raised questions about whether Secret Service agents were with her. She and Jenna attended a soccer match Sunday and were caught on TV cameras covering the game.

Mr. Goldman was also able to walk into the hotel where the twins were staying and found them in the lobby. He said he was surprised that no Secret Service agent tried to stop him, when he approached Barbara Bush and chatted with her.

An Argentine tabloid claimed the twins ran naked through a hallway in their hotel. ABC said hotel officials strongly denied that report.

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


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