Monday, November 17, 2003

Greece raps envoy

The U.S. ambassador to Greece upset Greek authorities by criticizing one of the country’s most famous composers for calling Jews “the root of evil.”

Government spokesman Christos Protopapas complained that Ambassador Thomas Miller meddled in domestic affairs with his comments on Mikis Theodorakis, the left-wing political activist who wrote “Zorba the Greek.”

“In our opinion, it is not part of [foreign ambassadors] jobs to take a stance and criticize remarks by Greek citizens, particularly when they do not concern the country they represent,” Mr. Protopapas told reporters last week.

Mr. Miller, in an earlier television interview, said he was disappointed by Mr. Theodorakis’ anti-Semitic comments at a Nov. 4 reception attended by Greek officials to celebrate the publication of his autobiography.

“It is regrettable and sad that a man of such stature makes such remarks,” Mr. Miller said.

At the book party, Mr. Theodorakis — flanked by Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Education Minister Petro Efthymiou — compared Greeks and Jews, calling them “two peoples without kin [who] had fanaticism and self-knowledge and managed to prevail.”

He added, of Jews, “Today, we can say these little people are the root of evil.”

The Central Jewish Council of Greece denounced Mr. Theodorakis’ remarks as “slogans used by Nazi Germany.”

Television news footage of his reception showed that neither Greek minister reacted to Mr. Theodorakis’ comments, but the government spokesman disavowed his remarks.

“The government does not share and is not in agreement with the opinion expressed by Mr. Theodorakis,” Mr. Protopapas said.

Fijian troops wanted

The United States would love to have Fiji send troops to Iraq, but cannot help the cash-strapped government pay for them, according to the U.S. ambassador to the South Pacific nation.

Ambassador David Lyon, in an interview in yesterday’s Fiji Sun newspaper, encouraged Fiji to do its part to support “world stability” and promised the United States could help with other costs except salaries.

“While we would very much like Fiji to contribute troops to Iraq peacekeeping duties and are prepared to provide equipment, uniforms, small arms, transport and logistical support, we are unable to pay salaries or personal entitlements,” he said.

Mr. Lyon expressed confidence that Fiji is “interested in doing its part for world stability, in maintaining Fiji’s position in the forefront of peacekeeping nations and in providing employment for men of military age.”

The Fijian government, which has deployed troops on peacekeeping duties, has cut the military budget and is unwilling to send more soldiers abroad at its own expense.

Fiji had 1,000 troops in Lebanon earlier this year. More than 1,000 serve in the British army, with many stationed in Iraq, and about 600 former Fijian soldiers are serving as mercenaries in Iraq with the British company Global Risk Strategies.

Japan’s U.S. strategy

Japan strengthened its alliance with the United States in the face of threats from North Korea, economic difficulties, competition from China and Russia, and growing nationalism, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“Under these circumstances, Japan’s latitude for pursuing alternative strategic options is limited,” Michael H. Armacost wrote in the annual “Strategic Asia” assessment of the National Bureau of Asian Research, a private think tank.

“Past hopes for carving out a unique role as a global civilian power, advancing the cause of human security, while relying essentially on soft power, confronted the harsh realities of real threats, a sluggish economy and a tight budget.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail

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