Thursday, May 10, 2007

First-class illusionist

A former U.S. ambassador accused Morocco of “deception” in its attempt to negotiate an end to the dispute over the Western Sahara region of North Africa.

“The secret of illusionists is to concentrate the audience’s attention on the left hand, while the right hand creates the deception,” Frank Ruddy said at a congressional hearing this week. “Morocco has shown itself to be a first-class illusionist.”

Mr. Ruddy, a former ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, was deputy chairman of a U.N. commission in 1994 that attempted to supervise a referendum on the region to allow the indigenous Sahrawi people to determine the future of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco since the mid-1970s.

Morocco, he said, “is drawing the attention of the U.N. and various foreign offices to its proposal of autonomy for Western Sahara as a long-awaited solution to the stalemate in North Africa, while, at the same time, it conceals the essential cause of the stalemate: Morocco’s illegal invasion and occupation of Western Sahara.”

Mr. Ruddy said Morocco is ignoring a 1975 ruling by the World Court, which rejected Morocco’s claim over the region, and a U.N. General Assembly resolution, which called for self-determination for the Sahrawi people.

Aziz Mekouar, Morocco’s ambassador to the United States, last week said his government is prepared to engage in “serious, direct and good-faith negotiations” with the former rebels of the Polisario Front. However, front leaders said such talks would be useless unless Morocco agrees to allow a referendum on the future of the area.

Mr. Ruddy recounted his attempts to register voters and organize a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite 13 years ago.

“I ran that referendum, which was sabotaged by Morocco when it became clear that the Sahrawis … would opt for independence,” he said.

Mr. Ruddy also criticized the Bush administration for failing to insist on a referendum on independence.

“Sadly our own government has not confronted Morocco’s lawless behavior,” he said.

Open house

German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth is urging Washington-area residents to come to Europe tomorrow by visiting diplomatic missions of European Union nations that are holding the first “EU Open House.”

“We want to put both the diversity of Europe and the unity of Europe on display,” said Mr. Scharioth, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

The event was planned as part of this year’s 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which began the European unification process. The event slogan is “Take Metro to Europe” because the embassies are formally foreign soil. Twenty-two of the bloc’s 27 member nations will hold events at the embassies. The EU delegation office also is celebrating the event.

Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. are the embassies of Austria, 3524 International Court NW; Belgium, 3330 Garfield St. NW; Finland, 3301 Massachusetts Ave. NW; France, 4101 Reservoir Road NW; Germany, 4645 Reservoir Road NW; Italy, 3000 Whitehaven St. NW; Luxembourg, 2200 Massachusetts Ave. NW; Romania, 1607 23rd St. NW; Slovenia, 1525 New Hampshire Ave. NW; and Sweden, 901 30th St. NW.

Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. are the embassies of Bulgaria, 1621 22nd St. NW; Cyprus, 2211 R St. NW; the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW; Hungary, 3910 Shoemaker St. NW; Ireland, 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW; the Netherlands, 2347 S St. NW; Poland, 2640 16th St. NW; and Portugal, 2012 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. are the embassies of Denmark, 3200 Whitehaven St.; Greece, 2221 Massachusetts Ave. NW; and Malta, 2017 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The Slovak Embassy, 3523 International Court NW, will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the office of the European Union, 2300 M St. NW, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

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