- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ambassador is sorry

The U.S. ambassador to Israel so badly fumbled the answer to a question on Monday that he issued an apology yesterday and blamed himself for his offending remarks that were “misinformed and misleading.”

Ambassador Richard Jones said he did not mean to suggest that Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, should have been executed. Israel has repeatedly appealed for a pardon for Pollard, who is serving a life sentence.

“I certainly do not personally believe that Mr. Pollard should have received capital punishment, and I was appalled to learn that I had given that impression,” Mr. Jones, a career diplomat, said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

“I regret any distress that I may have caused Mr. Pollard’s family and loved ones.”

Mr. Jones said his original comment was “misinformed and misleading” and “did not reflect my personal views nor those of the Bush administration.”

The comment that led to the ambassador’s apology followed a question from the audience after a speech at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.

“It came out in the trial very clearly. Jonathan Pollard took money for what he did. He sold out his country,” Mr. Jones said on Monday, referring to the former civilian analyst for the Navy.

“The fact that he wasn’t executed is the mercy that Jonathan Pollard will receive.”

That response made news in an otherwise routine speech about U.S.-Israeli relations.

Mr. Jones noted that the United States and Israel share the same concerns about terrorism and national security and hold the same countries, Syria and Iran, mostly responsible for hostility toward the Jewish state.

“As you might guess, the U.S. and Israel pretty much see eye to eye on Iran,” he said, citing Iran’s support for anti-Israeli terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We also have common opinions about Syria’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and for Palestinian rejectionist groups. … When it comes to terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, there is also no difference of opinion between Israel and the United States.”

Mr. Jones also assured his audience that the outcome of next year’s U.S. presidential election will not affect U.S. policy toward Israel.

“Regardless of who wins … the result will more likely rejuvenate than harm U.S.-Israeli relations,” he said.

Burma denounced

A top U.S. diplomat yesterday warned Burma that it is ensuring its continued diplomatic isolation by refusing to release pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political opponents of the ruling military government.

Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, called their detention “very damaging” to Burma’s national interests.

“The continued incarceration and house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi is one of several issues that are posing a real blockage in terms of Burma being able to rejoin the international community,” he told reporters on a visit to neighboring Thailand.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, 61, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is one of an estimated 1,100 political prisoners held by the junta, according to the United Nations.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Burma to try to win her release, while some Southeast Asian politicians have called for regional sanctions to oppose Burma’s nuclear ambitions.

Envoy to Somalia

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has appointed Ambassador John Yates as the U.S. special envoy to Somalia to help the transitional government “develop national institutions and overcome the legacy of violence and disorder.”

“By supporting the people of Somalia in this effort, we are also contributing to the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa and to the African continent as a whole,” Miss Rice said.

Mr. Yates is a career diplomat who was most recently ambassador to Cameroon.

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

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