Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 9, 2012

Newsline: Saudi diplomats warned not to wear national dress

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has directed its diplomats abroad not to wear Saudi national dress in public places or to go out late at night. The directives to its diplomats abroad include instructions not to wear the Saudi national dress on the streets and in public places, except during official ceremonies or in the place of work, besides making it obligatory for heads of missions to report the names of staff who do not comply with these directives. The ministry has also advised diplomatic staff to be cautious, not to go out late at night and to contact the heads of missions if they are threatened or notice anything suspicious like being followed by vehicles or persons. The directive comes after the assassination of Saudi diplomat Khalaf Bin Muhammad Salim Al-Ali in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka last Tuesday. A number of countries including Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE have offered the condolences of their leaders to King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, for the diplomat’s assassination. Meanwhile, a special aircraft of the Saudi government left Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka for King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh Thursday with the body of Khalaf Al-Ali, who was serving as Second Secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka. Police handed over the body to Mohammad Jashim Uddin Sarker, legal advisor to the Saudi embassy, from the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital morgue around 1:45 P.M. Bangladesh time. Al-Ali, 45, an official with the consular section of the embassy, was shot by unknown gunmen near his Gulshan house in the early hours of Tuesday. He died around 5 A.M. at the city’s United Hospital. The forensic report said a single bullet pierced the left part of Al-Ali’s chest and hit his kidney and he died of excessive bleeding. The Bangladeshi daily Baltaz said Wednesday that criminal affairs analysts in the country have leveled an accusation at the Iranian Embassy in Bangladesh



Newsline: Gaddafi ‘hid arms in Libyan embassies’

The administration of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was running a covert programme to conceal weapons in Libyan embassies across the globe, a senior official in the new government said. The weapons included handguns, grenades and bomb-making materials and were shipped using the diplomatic bag. They may have been intended for use in assassinations on Libyan dissidents abroad, or for operations against the embassies’ host countries. The scale of the scheme is emerging for the first time now as the leadership installed in last year’s rebellion against Gaddafi takes over control of embassies and finds the arms, said Mohammed Abdul Aziz, Libya’s deputy foreign minister. Gaddafi’s officials shipped weapons to “many countries. In Africa, in Asia, in Europe. So it’s not only in two or three countries”, Abdul Aziz told Reuters in an interview. During his 42 years in power, Gaddafi was frequently accused of exporting violence. The 1988 bombing of a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, and the 1984 shooting of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London, are some of the most high-profile cases. The fact that Gaddafi’s officials were keeping weapons inside Libyan embassies as late as last year suggests he was still plotting killings abroad, even after he renounced violence in the 1990s and Western states restored diplomatic relations.


Newsline: Another NZ diplomat criticises Foreign Affairs restructure

The Labour Party has released another cable from a senior diplomat criticising plans to restructure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In the leaked cable the ambassador to Japan, Ian Kennedy, said in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami last year, the embassy was able to rush staff from Wellington who had previously worked in Japan to help New Zealanders caught up in the disaster. Labour Party leader David Shearer says the service New Zealanders receive when caught up in life threatening situations must not be put at risk by cost cutting.


Newsline: Diplomats aid beaten NZ woman in escape

A Tirau woman claims she was beaten with a slave whip, starved and scared, and believes she would still be a hostage of her Egyptian husband if it wasn’t for a team of New Zealand diplomats who helped her escape. Sharon Churchill says last month she was was sleeping with a steel pipe for protection, and claims she was suffering emotional abuse and beatings from her husband of five months – a man she once called the love of her life. With the help of New Zealand embassy officials from Cairo, she escaped on February 14 and is warning other women about the dangers of holiday romances. In letters the 41-year-old has sent to Prime Minister John Key and other Government ministers, Ms Churchill credits a team of diplomats with saving her life by working with Egyptian authorities to get her safely out of the house and on a flight back to New Zealand. One of those who assisted her was Barbara Welton, the same diplomat who has been helping a Northland woman locked in a child custody battle with her husband in Algeria. Ms Welton is understood to have sat on the floor during a tense stand-off involving dozens of police, soldiers and Algerian locals. She refused to leave the property “without my citizens”. Back home in Tirau, Ms Churchill had some words of advice for any woman considering a holiday romance in the Middle East: “Have a fling.”