- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2013

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren accused Iran of deceiving the West by opening new talks about its suspected nuclear weapons program, as he addressed a major Jewish conference in Washington on Sunday.

Iran, which has threatened to destroy Israel, is using the latest round of talks to advance its enrichment of nuclear material, he told the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“Iran is stalling the negotiations, continuing to enrich uranium as talks continue,” Mr. Oren said.

He complained that “diplomacy hasn’t worked and sanctions haven’t stopped” Iran from pursuing its suspected goal of developing a nuclear missile that could hit targets throughout the Middle East, with a special aim of striking the Jewish state.

Iran last week held talks with representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States for the first time in eight months. The only outcome was an agreement to meet again.

Elliot Abrams, a foreign policy and national security adviser under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, endorsed Mr. Oren’s position when he addressed the conference.

“We seem to be negotiating with ourselves,” he said.

Mr. Oren also warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against mending relations with Hamas, the pro-Iranian Palestinian terrorist group that forced Mr. Abbas out of the Gaza Strip in 2007. He said that reconciliation would be a “game changer” in the Israeli government’s attempt to reopen peace talks with Mr. Abbas’ organization, which controls parts of the West Bank.

Mr. Oren called on Mr. Abbas to match steps taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which, he said, includes recognition of a future Palestinian state and a freeze on settlements on disputed land in the West Bank.

Only seeking justice

The relatives of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing say they are still seeking justice, not more money, from the Libyan government, which admitted responsibility for the terrorist attack that killed 270 people.

The Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 wrote Friday to Libyan Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali to distance the group from a British news report that quoted Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani, who complained about British and U.S. requests to reopen the investigation into the bombing of the U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.

“If they want to reopen the case they have to promise not to ask for more compensation,” he told The London Daily Telegraph.

Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi paid the families more than $2 billion in 2003. Gadhafi was overthrown and killed about eight years later.

Frank Duggan, president of the Pan Am relatives group, told the ambassador that the families want no more money.

“Justice is all that our victims’ families seek, and our efforts have never been about monetary compensation, which surely cannot replace lost lives,” he said.

The families support further investigation into the bombing, especially because only one Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was ever convicted of the attack. A Scottish court sentenced him to life in 2001, but the Scottish government released him in 2009, believing he had terminal cancer and only three months to live. He died last year in Libya.

Mr. Duggan told Mr. Aujali that the Pan Am families hope for the best in the Libyan government. “We hope that your new government can prosper as a democratic state with justice for all of your citizens,” he said.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:


Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He addresses the Brookings Institution and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation on the European Union financial crisis.


Charles Moore, a British political commentator and authorized biographer of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He addresses the Heritage Foundation on her warning about the powers of a European superstate.

Bishop David Zac Niringiye, former assistant bishop of the Diocese of Kampala, Uganda. He addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies about the political climate in his East African nation.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email [email protected] The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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