Syrian Diplomat in U.S. Writes Blogs

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 16, 2007; 1:08 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria -- His job is managing Syria's stormy relations with the United States, but Damascus' ambassador in Washington still finds time to blog, writing about everything from art and music to diaper changes for his newborn daughter.

Imad Moustapha's blog _ full of personal musings and photos, even one of his wife in the hospital after their baby's birth _ is unusual for any diplomat. But it's even more surprising for an official from Syria, where the government is among the most tightlipped in the Middle East.

"You have to remember that I belong to a, generally speaking, younger generation of Arab politicians. ... We are by nature more open than the older generation," Moustapha, 47, told The Associated Press during a recent vacation in Damascus.

"I have a very, very difficult post and you need an outlet, a way of escape," he said of the blog, which he began in 2005.

Moustapha's fans say his English-language blog is more than a diversion.

"It does a lot toward changing the perception of Syria and what a Syrian diplomat would be like," said Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst in Damascus. "The blog has art, paintings, cultural stories. ... It does Syria a great service."

Among Americans, Syria can use all the favorable publicity it can get.

Syrian-U.S. relations have been icy at best the past few years, particularly since the time Moustapha took up his Washington job in 2004. Relations plummeted after the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, an attack which many blamed on Damascus.

The U.S. pulled out its ambassador to Syria and clamped a diplomatic boycott on the country, accusing it of destabilizing Lebanon, sending insurgents to Iraq and supporting the militant anti-Israel groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

Syria, which has for years been on a U.S. State Department list of nations that support terror, denies involvement in Hariri's assassination and calls the groups it supports legitimate resistance movements.

"It is not an easy job. Sometimes I almost feel depressed," Moustapha wrote of his job at one point.

That's about as close as he comes to discussing politics in the blog.

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