- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2011


The document dump of classified U.S. diplomatic cables is starting to jeopardize the positions of American ambassadors who sent the State Department candid reports on sensitive subjects, as foreign governments complain about the leaks and nervous officials in Washington try to deal with the fallout.

Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, is waiting to find out whether his foreign service career is over, after the Libyan government privately expressed its outrage over a cable he sent in 2009 that described Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as the “world’s longest-serving dictator” who fears flying over water and never travels without his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse. Mr. Cretz was recalled to Washington after the Libyan complaints over the cable.

Embassy Row first reported on the Libyan cable on Dec. 3, as part of its coverage of hundreds of thousands of documents released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Kathleen Stephens, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, remains in Seoul, but officials there are privately grumbling over the leak of cables she wrote about South Korean relations with communist North Korea.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Thursday that leaks put her in an “awkward situation” because some South Korean officials are now reluctant to speak to her forthrightly in private meetings.

“Stephens told [South Korean officials] last month that she is under a lot of stress because of WikiLeaks,” the newspaper reported.

However, the newspaper added that some officials do not hold her responsible because she was just doing her job.

“She shouldn’t be disadvantaged by the leaked cables,” one South Korean diplomat said.

In a February 2010 cable, the ambassador reported on a private conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo, who told her that “China would not be able to stop North Korea’s collapse following the death of [dictator] Kim Jong-il.” He added that North Korea has already “collapsed economically and would collapse politically two to three years after the death of Kim,” the ambassador reported.

Mr. Cretz’s position remains more unclear. London’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that “he has lost his job.” However, a State Department spokesman downplayed the controversy.

Calling the U.S.-Libya relationship “complex,” P.J. Crowley on Wednesday told reporters that Mr. Cretz is in Washington “to reflect on both where we stand in that relationship and his role as part of that.”


Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has a solution for the diplomatic deadlock he created by rejecting a career diplomat as the next U.S. ambassador to his South American country.

In a televised speech Tuesday, he said he would accept left-wing Hollywood activists Oliver Stone, director of political conspiracy films, or Sean Penn, the pugnacious, Oscar-winning actor who defends Mr. Chavez and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Mr. Chavez also would accept Noam Chomsky, a controversial linguistic professor and self-described “libertarian socialist,” or former President Bill Clinton.

“I hope they name Oliver Stone,” Mr. Chavez said. “I suggest a candidate, Sean Penn or Chomsky. We have a lot of friends there. Bill Clinton.”

Mr. Stone last year directed a fawning film about Mr. Chavez that flopped in Venezuela. Time magazine headlined a report about the director and the dictator a “Love Story.” Mr. Penn recently said anyone who calls Mr. Chavez a dictator should be jailed.

A State Department spokesman this week said career diplomat Larry Palmer is still the top U.S. choice for ambassador. Mr. Palmer angered Mr. Chavez by criticizing Venezuelan ties to communist rebels in Colombia and for commenting on low morale in the Venezuelan military.

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

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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