- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Chess player

The new ambassador from Jordan compares many of the problems of the Middle East to a global chess match. The movement of one piece can cause infinite and unpredictable reactions.

Ambassador Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said he was reminded of his favorite game when he and three other Arab ambassadors visited freshman members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss Iraq and other regional issues shortly after he arrived in Washington.

“There was much to discuss, as I learned from my second day here,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.

Prince Zeid said he and Nabil Fahmy of Egypt, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa of Qatar and Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who has since resigned, presented a united Arab position on Iraq.

“We said we are against a U.S. disengagement and partitioning [of Iraq],” Prince Zeid said. “We very much want to see Iraq remain one country.”

Using his chess analogy, he warned of greater consequences for the region if Iraq is cut up into Kurdish, Shi’ite and Sunni nations.

“I told them that a chess board is wider than Iraq,” Prince Zeid said. “It’s full of problems, and we must be sure to defuse as many of them as we can.”

He told them that Jordan remains optimistic about the future of the Middle East, despite problems that now seem intractable. One reason for optimism is the Arab League’s endorsement of the Saudi peace proposal for a separate Palestinian state and Arab recognition of Israel within its 1967 borders in exchange for Israeli concessions on issues like return of Palestinians who fled when Israel was created in 1948. Israel has rejected the so-called “right of return” but otherwise has welcomed the initiative.

“On the Middle East, we see an opportunity,” Prince Zeid said, calling the Arab summit a success and dismissing criticism that too little was accomplished. “One should not belittle the initiative.”

He noted that Saudi King Abdullah first proposed the plan when he was crown prince in 2002 at the same time that President Bush first discussed a two-state solution.

“I don’t believe it was entirely coincidental,” the ambassador said.

Prince Zeid served as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2000 until earlier this year. He played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and investigated claims of human rights abuses by U.N. peacekeepers.

He was a political affairs officer in the U.N. mission to Yugoslavia during the civil war in the mid-1990s.

Pressing Bangladesh

The U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh is trying to push the South Asian nation into announcing a timetable for elections, six months after a state of emergency postponed a vote scheduled in January.

Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis met this week with the chief election commissioner, A.T.M. Shamsul Huda, to press the case for a restoration of democracy.

“I, of course, emphasized the desirability of issuing a timeline for the election,” she told reporters in the capital, Dhaka. “We understand that the timeline depends on when the electoral reforms will be carried out, but I urged them to have a projection so the government can make it public.”

President Iajuddin Ahmed imposed emergency measures on Jan. 11, after months of political street fights between rival activists, who also fought soldiers and riot police. An interim government has since been appointed. It is headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed and strongly backed by the military, which ruled Bangladesh for 15 years before surrendering power to a civilian government in 1991.

The interim authorities have insisted on removing corruption from politics before scheduling new elections for president and the legislature. However, Ms. Butenis argued that the public is growing impatient.

“People want to know when the election is likely to be held,” she said.

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

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