- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2011

ARMY TAKEOVER IN ZIMBABWE?

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray is warning of a possible military takeover of Zimbabwe, if the longtime autocrat, Robert Mugabe, is ousted as a result of an internal feud in the ruling party.

“The army generals are entitled to their own views, just like everyone else. But once they start dabbling in politics, it becomes a recipe for disorder,” Mr. Ray told the Mail and Guardian newspaper in an interview in the capital, Harare.

“Their role is to defend a nation and not a political party. If anyone wants to become a politician, the honorable thing to do is take off the uniform and become a politician.”

Mr. Ray, who retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of major before joining the State Department, was reacting to reports that Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, the Zimbabwean army commander, is expected to force out Mr. Mugabe because of disputes within the Zimbabwe African National Union-Political Front.

The ambassador, who presented his diplomatic credentials to Mr. Mugabe in 2009, spoke to the newspaper after addressing about 200 young Zimbabweans at an annual Young Leaders’ Forum.

Although Mr. Mugabe frequently has denounced the ambassador for criticizing human rights abuses in the government, the young people were impressed by Mr. Ray’s speech, the Mail and Guardian reported.

“The Arab Spring is an indicator to governments of what can happen when they lose contact with their people and ignore the discontent among the young,” he said.

ALL THAT JAZZ

Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan is celebrating another Turkish athlete drafted into the National Basketball Association.

“The Utah Jazz’ selection of Enes Kanter extends the rich bilateral basketball relationship between the United States and Turkey,” Mr. Tan said after the Salt Lake City team picked up the 19-year-old forward last week.

“I’m confident Enes has all of the tools to be a great player in the NBA for many years to come, and I’m looking forward to watching him play when he comes through Washington. I would like to extend my congratulations to Enes and his family on this terrific honor. Kudos as well to the Utah Jazz on a very wise selection.”

Mr. Enes joins Mehmet Okur, a center-forward, as the second Turk on the Utah Jazz.

Other Turkish players in the NBA: Omer Asik, a center-forward with the Chicago Bulls; Semih Erden, a guard with the Cleveland Cavaliers; Ersan Ilyasova, a forward with the Milwaukee Bucks; and Hedo Turkoglu, a forward with the Orlando Magic.

“As a country, Turkey is proud of its basketball roots and its growing ranks in the NBA,” the ambassador added.

Turkey’s love of basketball goes back to 1904 when the first game was played at Istanbul’s prestigious Robert College.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium, leading a trade delegation. Philippe delivers a keynote address to the Bio International Convention on biotechnology. They are accompanied by Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere and Cabinet ministers Benoit Cerexhe, Jean-Claude Marcourt, Kris Peeters and Jean-Luc Vanraes, along with 300 business executives.

• Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee of India, who discusses U.S.-India relations with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner at a Brookings Institution conference.

Wednesday

• Costel Bercus, chairman of the Roma Education Fund Board in Romania, and Mona Nicoara, the Romanian film director of “Our School,” a documentary on Roma, or Gypsy, children. They testify before the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at 2 p.m. in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


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