A congressionally created panel on religious freedom this week added its voice to a growing international campaign to stop a top Egyptian official from serving as the chief executive of a U.N. panel dedicated to promoting peace through cultural tolerance.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to urge her to support any qualified candidate except Farouk Hosni, Egypt’s culture minister for more than 20 years, to serve as director-general of the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The voting for a new director begins Thursday at the headquarters of the Paris-based organization. Mr. Hosni, 71, is still considered the front-runner in the campaign.
The commission based its opposition to Mr. Hosni on his public statements against Israel, including a threat to burn any Israeli book he found in an Egyptian library, and his support for Egypt’s press censorship laws. He later apologized for the book-burning outburst.
“Mr. Hosni … has made some public statements and advocated various policies in the past that clearly compromise his ability to lead an organization dedicated … to promoting ‘collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion,’ ” commission Chairman Leonard A. Leo wrote, quoting UNESCO’s constitution.
The commission’s opposition followed complaints from Reporters Without Borders, which denounced Mr. Hosni’s support for Egypt’s censorship laws, and from the Nazi-hunters at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who said his election would be a “major threat to the very values of UNESCO.”
Reporters Without Borders said, “Mr. Hosni has been one of the leading protagonists of government censorship in the Arab Republic of Egypt, constantly seeking to control both press freedom and his fellow citizens’ right to freedom of information.”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, however, is insisting that this is the time for an Arab to lead the organization and is resisting pressure behind the scenes from Western leaders to withdraw Mr. Hosni’s candidacy.
The new U.S. ambassador to Belize has at least four things in common with his predecessor.
Both are political appointees. Both were major fundraisers for their parties. Both were Colorado residents.
But, bizarrely, both are also former college roommates of the presidents who picked them to lead the diplomatic mission in the Central America nation.
Vinai Thummalapally, who was born in India, was a roommate of President Obama’s when both were students at Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1979.
Robert Dieter, ambassador to Belize from 2005 through 2008, was President George W. Bush’s roommate in the late 1960s at Yale University.
Mr. Thummalapally, 54, was a member of Mr. Obama’s national finance committee and helped raise more than $100,000. Mr. Dieter, 63, donated $23,250 to Republican causes from 1998 to 2004.
Mr. Thummalapally arrived in Belize, an English-speaking nation famous for miles of white-sand beaches and deep-sea fishing, on Wednesday.
“A diplomat is a man who can say you have an open mind, instead of telling you that you have a hole in your head.” - Anonymous
Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.