Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May, 2012

Newsline: US expels top Syrian diplomat from Washington

The U.S. State Department is kicking out Syria’s top diplomat to Washington, joining several other countries in expelling Syrian officials in a bid to increase pressure on leader Bashar Assad. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the U.S. government has given Syria’s charge d’affaires 72 hours to leave the country. “In response to the May 25 massacre in the village of Houla, today the United States informed the Syrian Charge d’Affaires Zuheir Jabbour of his expulsion from the United States,” she said in a statement. “We took this action in coordination with partner countries including Australia, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany.”



Newsline: France, Britain, Australia and Canada expel Syrian diplomats

France, Britain, Australia and Canada are expelling senior Syrian diplomats, officials said Tuesday, increasing pressure on Damascus after a massacre in which the United Nations says families were shot at close range in their homes. French President Francois Hollande told reporters Tuesday that Ambassador Lamia Shakkour will be notified “today or tomorrow” that she must leave. British officials said Tuesday that the U.K. is expelling three Syrian diplomats in protest at the killings, among them Charge d’Affaires Ghassan Dalla, the country’s top ranking diplomat in London. In Canada, Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement that the Syrian diplomats and their families have five days to leave Canada. Another Syrian diplomat expected in Canada will be refused entry. In Canberra, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Charge d’Affaires Jawdat Ali, the most senior Syrian diplomat in Australia, is to be expelled along with another diplomat from the Syrian Embassy. He said they were told to leave the country within 72 hours, in response to the massacre in Houla. In Vienna, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nikolaus Lutterotti said the Syrian ambassador is being summoned to the ministry where officials will deliver a very hard protest about the massacre. When asked if the expulsions were EU-wide, Lutterotti said this had not yet been decided. He said the ambassador to Austria would not be expelled as he holds an additional function as the representative to the UN organizations in Vienna. The Syrian ambassador to Britain left the country in March. The United States and Britain have closed their embassies in Syria.


Newsline: China diplomat flees Japan over spy claims

A diplomat at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo has fled Japan amid claims he was wanted for questioning over possible spying, local media reported Tuesday. The 45-year-old first secretary at the embassy, a former member of Beijing’s intelligence service, refused to surrender to police and left the country, Kyodo News said, quoting law enforcement sources. Japanese police believe the unidentified man had been receiving “advisory” fees from Japanese companies in return for information, which is prohibited by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. They also think he had been in regular contact with Japanese lawmakers.


Newsline: US Embassy urges PNG to adhere to constitution

The United States Embassy in Papua New Guinea is calling on the country’s politicians to respect the constitution and uphold democratic institutions. In a statement, the Embassy says recent political developments underscore the need for the 2012 national elections to move forward as scheduled. It says it hopes parliament’s recommendation that states of emergency be declared in parts of the country will not disrupt the election campaign or the voting process. The Embassy says the vote is a unique opportunity for Papua New Guineans to shape their country’s future at a critical time in the nation’s history.


Newsline: US journalist denies receiving money from Pakistani Embassy

David Frum, a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor, who has allegedly been accused of receiving secret funds from the Pakistan Embassy, has strongly denied the charge in a column he wrote on CNN.com. “On Wednesday, Google Alerts brought me a piece of startling news: A lawyer speaking to a tribunal of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had accused me of acting as a paid agent of the government of Pakistan. No, seriously, that’s what the man said.” Frum was responding to a reported statement of prominent SC lawyer Akram Sheikh who, it was reported, had ‘claimed in a statement that Pakistani Embassy provided funds to Harlan Ullman and David Frum for damage control after the memo controversy’. In his response Frum wrote on CNN.com he was so taken aback by the claim that he telephoned Sheikh to ask whether it was true. “We had a short but intense exchange.” He said given that charges against him have gained a hearing inside Pakistan, some kind of answer seems due. Frum wrote: “Where is the fake evidence? The forged check, the bogus wire transfer, the suborned courier? Money always leaves a record.”


Newsline: U.S. Embassy officials among the targets of alleged Iran-linked assassination plots in Azerbaijan

In November, the tide of daily cable traffic to the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan brought a chilling message for Ambassador Matthew Bryza, then the top U.S. diplomat to the small Central Asian country. A plot to kill Americans had been uncovered, the message read, and embassy officials were on the target list. The details, scant at first, became clearer as intelligence agencies from both countries stepped up their probe. The plot had two strands, U.S. officials learned, one involving snipers with silencer-equipped rifles and the other a car bomb, apparently intended to kill embassy employees or members of their families. Both strands could be traced back to the same place, the officials were told: Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor, Iran. The threat, many details of which were never made public, appeared to recede after Azerbaijani authorities rounded up nearly two dozen people in waves of arrests early this year. Precisely who ordered the hits, and why, was never conclusively determined. But U.S. and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries over a span of 13 months. The targets have included two Saudi officials, a half-dozen Israelis and — in the Azerbaijan case — several Americans, the officials say.


Newsline: Bahrain jails six for plotting attack on Saudi Embassy

Six Bahrainis have been jailed for 15 years each for being part of an Iran-backed terrorist cell planning attacks in Bahrain. They were also convicted of seeking to overthrow the government, suspend the Constitution and encroach on individual freedoms and rights by High Criminal Court. It is believed they planned attacks on targets in Bahrain, including King Fahad Causeway, the Saudi Embassy and the Interior Ministry. Three of them are still at large and were sentenced in absentia, including alleged masterminds. The convicted men, who confessed to the charges during initial questioning, caused chaos in court after the judge read out the verdict, shouting political slogans and police were forced to escort them out of the courtroom. Defence lawyers earlier requested judges to throw out the case, arguing it was unconstitutional as the country’s law is unclear with regard to terror cases. Four of the defendants are said to have been arrested in Qatar before being handed over to Bahrain’s security services, while the fifth was later arrested in Bahrain. They were reportedly on their way to Iran to receive training in explosives and firearms. A senior policeman earlier stated phone records were available showing the men had communicated with the head of the Iran-backed terror cell based in the UK.