- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2013

The U.S. ambassador in London lectured British voters this week on what he says is their responsibility to keep the United Kingdom within the European Union, despite rising popular support for pulling out of the 27-nation federation.

Ambassador Louis B. Susman told Britain’s Sky News that U.S. interests would be harmed if Britain, which he called America’s “best ally,” withdrew from the EU.

“We believe it’s in America’s interest to have a strong EU. It’s key to trading and to certain diplomatic matters and intelligence matters and military matters,” he said. “And for our best ally not to be a strong voice there, frankly, we don’t think it’s in our interests.”

Mr. Susman, a top fundraiser for President Obama, was clearly stating White House policy. Vice President Joseph R. Biden this month even claimed that Brussels, the Belgium capital and EU headquarters, has a “legitimate claim” to be the capital of the free world — a title usually reserved for Washington.

The ambassador also insisted that the “American people feel we would like them [the British] to stay in.”

Mr. Susman, who is planning to retire after serving more than 3 years in London, was responding to growing British opposition to the centralization of power in Brussels and increasingly wasteful spending by European bureaucrats.

The latest poll shows 50 percent of Britons favor withdrawing from the EU, and Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on the issue within four years.

Neil Gardiner, a former aide to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called Mr. Susman’s comments “lecturing and condescending.”Mr. Gardiner, who highlighted the ambassador’s interview on his blog on The Daily Telegraph’s website, predicted that Mr. Susman’s comment likely will increase support for leaving the EU.

“It is also extraordinarily presumptuous and misleading when he claims the ‘American people’ want Britain to stay in the European Union,” said Mr. Gardiner, now with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. “There is no polling evidence whatsoever to suggest this is the case at all.”

Historic election

U.S. diplomats are nervously watching political campaigns in crisis-prone, nuclear-armed Pakistan, and hoping for a peaceful and legitimate election that will mark the first democratic transfer of power since the founding of the South Asian nation in 1947.

“This is truly a historic moment for Pakistan,” David Pearce, a special U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told Pakistani officials this week.

On a visit to Islamabad, Mr. Pearce said he hopes that the May 11 parliamentary elections will be “free and fair” and “result in the first civilian democratic transition in Pakistan’s history.”Richard Olson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, delivered a similar message in an appearance Monday before the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.

“We want to see credible, free and fair elections on a timely basis,” he said, adding that the United States is playing no favorites among candidate from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N or other smaller parties.

Meanwhile, Pakistani security officials are preparing for a “massive terrorist threat” from the Pakistani Taliban and other extremists groups, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported this week.

Intelligence sources expect attacks in the restive Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan. 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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