- - Sunday, December 16, 2012

ATHENS — Greece has expelled the Syrian ambassador and two other Syrian diplomats nearly five months after shutting its own embassy in Damascus to protest the killing of Syrian civilians in the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

The Foreign Ministry last week summoned Ambassador Houda al Houmsi to order her and two other diplomats to leave Greece. The Syrian Embassy will offer only limited consular services.

Greece closed its embassy in Damascus on July 26.

The Foreign Ministry said Greece “looks forward soon to the full reopening of the Greek Embassy in Damascus when conditions in that country allow the full development of bilateral relations.”


U.S. urges end to nationalistic rhetoric

TIRANA — The U.S. ambassador in Tirana has warned of an “unfortunate” rise in nationalist rhetoric by Albanian politicians ahead of elections next year.

Alexander A. Arvizu says attempts to inflame ethnic tensions could potentially destabilize the Balkans. His comments Friday follow calls from a small nationalist party for a referendum on uniting Albania with neighboring Kosovo, whose population is mostly ethnic Albanian.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha recently angered neighboring Greece with talk of Albanian lands including parts of Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Officials in Tirana later said his comments, made ahead of Albania’s 100th anniversary celebrations, had a purely historical context.

Mr. Berisha also promised citizenship for ethnic Albanians worldwide — an offer he later retracted.

Mr. Arvizu said voters should not fall for talk of an “illusory Greater Albania.”


Foreign minister named to Political Bureau

HAVANA — Cuba has named Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to the Communist Party Political Bureau, cementing his position among the most highly placed next-generation leaders on the island.

The powerful Political Bureau sits at the top of the party’s leadership structure and plays a central role in guiding the direction of the nation, though it does not have the power to enact or enforce laws.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma reported last week that President Raul Castro said Cuba must urgently break with what he called the “blockade of thinking that still persists when the time comes to select and prepare young leaders.”

Mr. Castro repeatedly has spoken of the need to promote fresh leadership, an acknowledgment that the aging revolutionary generation that has dominated Cuban politics for decades will not be around forever.

Fidel Castro, 86, is retired and largely out of sight. Raul Castro is 81, and his top two lieutenants also are octogenarians.

Mr. Rodriguez, 54, is a former Havana University law professor and ambassador to the United Nations who speaks English fluently. He was deputy foreign minister from 2004 to 2009.

Other younger faces on the Political Bureau include economy czar Marino Murillo, tapped to implement Raul Castro’s economic reform plan; Lazara Mercedes Lopez Acea, the Communist Party’s regional boss in Havana since 2009; and Miguel Diaz Canel, vice president of the Council of Ministers and former minister of higher education.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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