Corruption in Iraq is so bad that officials call it the “second insurgency,” a top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad said this week.
Lawrence Benedict, who holds the rank of an ambassador and heads the U.S. Embassy’s anti-corruption office, also warned that a glut of oil revenue flooding Iraq because of soaring energy prices makes the situation worse.
“There’s more money around for people to try to get their hands on,” he told Reuters news agency.
Iraq scored as the world’s third-most corrupt nation, after Burma and Somalia, in a review last year of 180 countries and territories by Transparency International.
“Senior officials in the Iraqi government have characterized corruption as the second insurgency. That’s pretty strong language in a place like this,” Mr. Benedict said.
Corruption is costing the Iraqi government about $18 billion a year, according to congressional testimony last year by Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, former head of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity.
PAYING A PRICE
Russia will pay a price for its aggression in Georgia, according to the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Austria Press Agency this week that Russia is becoming more nationalistic and is trying to recapture the power held by the old Soviet Union.
“We need to make it clear to Russia what the price for certain courses of action is,” he said.
Mr. Khalilzad said Russia could play a constructive role in the world but appears to have chosen to intimidate its neighbors if they move too closely to the West.
“We all have concerns about a Russia that asserts its influence and applies force when other means would be available against a democratic country on its border,” he said.
“We accept that Russia has legitimate interests in the world and especially in its neighborhood, but the big question is how one goes about achieving these legitimate interests.”
More than 15,000 visitors to the National Zoo drank 70 gallons of Sri Lankan tea, mostly with sugar and ice, watched traditional dances and even tried on saris, the wrap-around garments worn by women in South Asia.
However, they did not come for the tea or the dancing or the fashion show. They came to see the elephants, and Ambika, Kandula and Shanti put on a show as they rolled logs, wallowed in mud, had a bath and raised their trunks to the audience as if they were taking a bow.
The Sri Lankan Embassy co-sponsored the Asian Elephant Day, along with the Smithsonian Institution and the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ).
Sri Lankan Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, zoo Director John Berry and FONZ chief Robert Lamb welcomed the visitors to the daylong reception that began with breakfast. Sri Lanka’s Sigiri Lalanavo dance group entertained the guests with traditional performances.
Ambika, celebrating her 60th birthday, was born in India in 1948 and donated to the Washington zoo in 1961. Shanti was born in Sri Lanka in 1975 and given to the zoo a year later. Her name means “peace” in Sinhalese, the language spoken by a majority of Sri Lankans, as well as in several Indian languages. In 2001, Shanti gave birth to Kandula, named for a legendary elephant that served a king of Sri Lanka more than 2,000 years ago.
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