Running Start for Libyan Mission

By Nora Boustany
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

A li Suleiman Aujali , the chief of the Libyan Liaison Office here, has not been installed as Libya's new ambassador to the United States, but his nine-diplomat mission in the Watergate building has been busy receiving the first high-level delegation of Libyan officials since the normalization of diplomatic and economic ties between Tripoli and Washington was announced last month.

Not wasting any time since the breakthrough that restored Libya as a country Americans can do business with, this maiden visit by political and financial officials aims to pave the way for trade and investment opportunities in Libya. It began with a dinner and panel discussion Monday at the St. Regis Hotel organized by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 business people showed up for the occasion, said David Hamod , president of the chamber of commerce. Mohamed Tahar Siala , the Libyan secretary for cooperation, fielded questions from the Americans.

"They mainly wanted to know about the legal reforms in Libya that would protect American investors and what kinds of products Libyan firms and interests were looking for in U.S. markets," Hamod said.

The Libyan delegation included officials from the Foreign Libyan Bank, the Department of Foreign Investment, the General People's Committee on Privatization, the Libyan Iron & Steel Company, the National Oil Company, Mediterranean Oil Services, the Central Bank of Libya and others.

Kagame Criticizes 'Hotel Rwanda'

Rwanda's president, Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame , who was in town last week, complained about what he said were inaccuracies in the 2004 movie "Hotel Rwanda," which tells the story of a hotel manager helping to rescue Rwandans from genocide. He said that while the film was "useful in bringing up the plight of Rwanda" to the attention of the world community, "the claim that Paul Rusesabagina having saved so many made him seem like a hero. Paul Rusesabagina did not save people. He had no means to do it, and he did not do it."

Kagame said that a trade-off was negotiated by which his forces allowed those stranded in the hotel to go. "He himself tried to escape and was turned back," he added of Rusesabagina. Kagame joined a campaign against the hotel manager, who now lives in Brussels, last February after Rusesabagina criticized as undemocratic the 2003 election won by Kagame. Rusesabagina has since been advised that it is not safe for him to return to Rwanda.

Terry George , who directed "Hotel Rwanda," said he interviewed scores of survivors and hotel workers and confirmed that their accounts did not contradict Rusesabagina's.

Kagame, in a meeting with Washington Post reporters and editors, also talked about health issues in Africa and the need for donor funds to go to wider causes and not focus only on the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

"Resources that are being mobilized from developed countries should be targeted comprehensively to all other areas of the economy, such as poverty and malnutrition," he said. "Can you imagine a patient feeding on drugs and dying of hunger or something else? A body cannot take in medications without food," he added.

"Don't isolate HIV-AIDS as a problem and separate it from other health issues such as deficient health infrastructure," Kagame said.

The U.N.'s Town Crier

Specialty: Forgotten disaster zones. Role: Global town crier. Nationality: Norwegian.

When he thought that countries were shuffling their feet in aiding tsunami victims a year and a half ago, Jan Egeland took to the airwaves and accused them of being "stingy."

Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs as well as the coordinator of humanitarian disaster relief, has sounded his siren on world calamities for years. He resorted to megaphone tactics in 2004 to bring the crises in northern Uganda and the Darfur region of western Sudan to the attention of the U.N. Security Council.

Following a swing through the refugee camps of Darfur late last month, Egeland visited Washington and met with Security Council and U.S. State Department officials. He described the conditions in which civilians were surviving as "horrendous" and fretted about a shortfall in donor funding that almost forced the suspension of food supplies last month.

In a telephone interview late last month, Egeland said the United States came through with five food shipments. "The U.S. is by far the biggest donor to Sudan. Last year more than 80 percent of all food came from the United States," he said. Egeland's persuasive powers even got the Khartoum government to send a 20,000-ton shipment to Darfur.

He has knocked on doors in oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai to boost donations through his agency. Those countries are more generous than is commonly known, he said, but they donate individually to Muslim charities.

"The money is invisible to us. They give, but they give in the wrong way," he said of efforts to transfer money through local organizations rather than heed global appeals. Saudi Red Crescent activities in Darfur have been curtailed because after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it became much more difficult to wire money internationally.

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