- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No safe haven

Mexico has extradited 50 fugitives to the United States, including suspects wanted on murder, rape and drug trafficking charges, the U.S. ambassador in Mexico said this week.

“The message the U.S. and Mexican governments are sending cannot be clearer,” Ambassador Antonio O. Garza Jr. said. “We are working together to guarantee that neither country will ever be a refuge for those who seek to escape justice.”

He listed 24 murder suspects among those sent to the United States in a record number of extraditions.

“Thanks to solid cooperation from the Mexican government, extraditions have risen steadily and threefold since the year 2001, when just 17 fugitives hiding in Mexico were brought to the United States to face justice,” Mr. Garza said.

The suspects include Martin Torres Vega, wanted on serial rape and murder charges in Austin, Texas, Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, accused of drug smuggling in Southern California, and Roberto Ramirez, wanted in the death of a young woman in Chicago.

The 50 suspects “thought they would enjoy free and unfettered lives south of the border,” Mr. Garza said. “They were wrong.”

Mexico’s Supreme Court last year struck down a four-year-old ban on extraditions. However, Mexico still refuses to hand over suspects who face the death penalty in the United States.

Diplomatic slip

The U.S. special envoy to Kosovo yesterday almost made a diplomatic gaffe but corrected himself before the end of an awkward sentence.

Referring to negotiations that are expected to resolve the status of the restive Serbian province with an ethnic-Albanian majority, Ambassador Frank G. Wisner said, “We are going to pursue independence by the — sorry — we are going to pursue final status by the end of the year.”

Serbs hope to amend the constitution in a weekend referendum and reassert sovereignty over Kosovo, which has been under United Nations’ administration since the end of a civil war in 1999.

U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari is scheduled to make a recommendation on the future of the province.

Early Thanksgiving

Only the Saudi ambassador could get away with this line.

“Turkey is my favorite meal,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal at a farewell dinner for a fellow ambassador, Karim Kawar of Jordan.

Prince Turki, Mr. Kawar and Ambassadors Farid Abboud of Lebanon and Said T. Jawad of Afghanistan joined more than 40 other prominent Washingtonians — including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso R. Jackson, CNN host Wolf Blitzer, formerAmbassador Walter Cutler and diplomatic writer Gail Scott — for an early Thanksgiving Day dinner at the elegant home of Esther Coopersmith, the grand hostess of diplomats and politicians.

Mrs. Coopersmith noted that Mr. Kawar and his wife, Luma, came to a Thanksgiving dinner at her house shortly after they arrived in Washington more than four years ago.

“I was trying to figure out how you could take a turkey home with you,” she told Mr. Kawar, who is leaving Washington at the end of the year.

“The only turkey I could think of was this turkey,” she added in her trademark deadpan wit, as she presented him a Washington Redskins chess set.

Mr. Kawar called the dinner a “bittersweet moment” for him and his wife, as they prepare to return to Jordan.

“You have made us feel like family,” he told Mrs. Coopersmith, who also entertained Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. “We know from this dinner how much we have to lose.”

Mrs. Kawar added that at Mrs. Coopersmith’s dinners, “we met the famous and the glamorous, including Hillary Clinton.”

After the short speeches, Mrs. Coopersmith invited her guests to help themselves to the buffet dinner.

“Everything was homemade, and I didn’t make it, so it’s OK,” she said.

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

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