- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

BRITAIN STILL SPECIAL

Despite Scotland’s release of the Lockerbie bomber, the U.S.-Britain relationship still remains special and Americans of Scottish heritage will continue to travel to the land of their ancestors, U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman said Thursday on a visit to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Susman noted the outrage in the United States over Scotland’s release of the Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in August and acknowledged that Washington was surprised by Scotland’s decision. The Obama administration, he said, would have preferred to extradite him to the United States.

“We never anticipated his release,” said Mr. Susman, a close political supporter of President Obama‘s. “I think if we ever thought he would be released, we probably would have asked for extradition early on.”

Al-Megrahi, who received a hero’s welcome on his return to Libya, was the only suspect convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The explosion killed all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, mostly Americans. Eleven people died on the ground after being struck by parts of the destroyed airliner.

Mr. Susman said the United States holds no lasting anger over the Scottish decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he is reportedly dying of cancer.

“Good friends disagree,” he said. “I compare it sometimes to a marriage. You have a little fight. You are a little mad, but you don’t get divorced.”

Mr. Susman, who arrived in London in August, added that al-Megrahi’s release added “a bit of flavor to my first week” as ambassador.

Mr. Susman also noted that tens of thousands of Americans traveled to Scotland this year for the Gathering, part of the yearlong celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.

“For one event alone in July, some 3,000 U.S. citizens attended the Gathering to renew their connection to their ancestral roots,” he said.

“The United States is Scotland’s biggest international trading partner, and our continued cooperation will be particularly important in contributing toward economic recovery.”

CALL FOR LEADERSHIP

“Simmering tensions” and “frozen conflicts” in Europe and Eurasia demand stronger U.S. leadership in a massive human rights commission that represents 56 countries, the chairmen of a key congressional civil rights panel said this week.

“We are surrounded by events that demand strong U.S. leadership within the OSCE, not only to advance U.S. interests but to uphold the international principles reflected in international commitments,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, referring to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Maryland Democrat and chairman of the congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe added, “From simmering tensions in the Caucasus and frozen conflicts, to concern in the Balkans and the impasse with Moscow over weapons treaties, there are no shortages of reminders of the need for the U.S. to play a more assertive role in the OSCE.”

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the commission, added, “I cannot exaggerate the importance of the U.S. leading by example.”

The two commission leaders presided over a hearing earlier this week that featured testimony from Philip H. Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs; Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor; and Alexander Vershbow, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Russia and NATO.

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

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