‘SE­CRET RECORD­ING’

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY JAMES MOR­RI­SON

Even skilled diplo­mats some­times stum­ble, es­pe­cially when they think the mi­cro­phones are off.

U.S. Am­bas­sador Richard Nor­land in the for­mer Soviet repub­lic of Ge­or­gia found him­self sput­ter­ing in out­rage over com­ments he made ear­lier this month to stu­dents at Tbil­isi State Univer­sity in the cap­i­tal of the Black Sea na­tion.

“This was a dis­cus­sion with stu­dents. Ac­tu­ally it was off the record, and it was [a] se­cret record­ing,” he said in re­marks posted on the U.S. Em­bassy web­site.

Mr. Nor­land sug­gested the quotes that ap­peared in the Ge­or­gian me­dia were taken out of con­tent, but the dam­age was done.

In his Nov. 15 ad­dress at the univer­sity, he com­plained about how the Ge­or­gian gov­ern­ment treated res­i­dents of the break­away re­gions of Abk­hazia and South Os­se­tia, which have been restive since the 1991 col­lapse of the Soviet Union.

Ge­or­gia has clashed in those re­gions twice in the early 1990s and with Rus­sia in 2008, when the Krem­lin backed South Os­se­tian forces in a four-day war.

Mr. Nor­land re­called his ear­lier diplo­matic ser­vice in the re­gion in the 1990s and called on Ge­or­gia to apol­o­gize for mis­treat­ing Abk­hazians and South Os­se­tians. He com­pared the treat­ment of the two eth­nic mi­nori­ties to ear­lier Rus­sia abuses against Ge­or­gians, ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the Ge­or­gian press.

Re­spond­ing to a stu­dent’s ques­tion about his opin­ion of the caul­dron of ten­sion in the re­gion, Mr. Nor­land said:

“If you ask me about my opin­ion, I can tell you that when I was in Ge­or­gia 20 years ago, I saw that Ge­or­gians were treat­ing Abk­hazians and Os­se­tians the same way as Rus­sians were treat­ing Ge­or­gians, and Ge­or­gia will have to apol­o­gize for mis­takes of the past.”

His re­marks sparked protests from op­po­si­tion politi­cians, while the gov­ern­ment tried to play down the am­bas­sador’s gaffe.

“Ge­or­gians do not have to apol­o­gize to any­one,” said Paata Dav­i­taia, leader of the Euro­pean Democrats.

PE­SHAWAR, PAK­ISTAN | Demon­stra­tors protest­ing U.S. drone strikes roughed up driv­ers Sun­day as they sought to stop NATO sup­ply trucks from pass­ing through north­west Pak­istan.

The rally came a day af­ter a party led by politi­cian and cricket star Imran Khan said it would pre­vent NATO sup­ply trucks mak­ing their way to and from Afghanistan from trav­el­ing through Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa prov­ince un­til the U.S. stops drone strikes.

The U.S. leads the NATO coali­tion bat­tling the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.

Some 100 pro­test­ers on the out­skirts of Pe­shawar, the cap­i­tal of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa, checked the doc­u­ments of truck driv­ers headed to­ward Afghanistan as they passed through a toll booth.

They shouted at the driv­ers, and pulled one man, Gul Za­man, out of his truck when he told them that he was car­ry­ing com­mer­cial goods to Afghanistan, not NATO sup­plies. Video of the in­ci­dent was shown by Pak­istan’s GEO TV.

“With­out wait­ing for me to take my doc­u­ments out of the glove com­part­ment, they dragged me out,” Mr. Za­man said. “We are also con­cerned about drone at­tacks, but they shouldn’t come down heavy on us like this.”

Po­lice were present at the scene but did not in­ter­vene to stop the pro­test­ers.

Later, one of Mr. Khan’s al­lies, the right-wing Ja­maate-Is­lami party, led thou­sands in a protest against drones and the NATO sup­ply line in the south­ern port city of Karachi, where the ship­ments orig­i­nate.

Mr. Khan, whose Tehreek-e-In­saf party con­trols the Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, has been a vo­cal critic of drone at­tacks. He and other of­fi­cials say the strikes are a vi­o­la­tion of the coun­try’s sovereignty, al­though the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is known to have se­cretly sup­ported some of the at­tacks.

Mr. Khan led thou­sands of sup­port­ers Satur­day in a protest near Pe­shawar, where they blocked a road that led to one of two bor­der cross­ings used by trucks car­ry­ing NATO sup­plies in and out of Afghanistan. The other cross­ing is in south­west Baluchis­tan prov­ince. The demon­stra­tion had more sym­bolic value than prac­ti­cal im­pact be­cause there is nor­mally very lit­tle NATO sup­ply traf­fic on the weekend.

Fed­eral In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Pervez Rashid ac­cused Mr. Khan on Sun­day of try­ing to dam­age Pak­istan’s re­la­tion­ship with NATO coun­tries and Afghanistan.

“Any­one who wants to dis­turb our re­la­tions with neigh­bors is not serv­ing the coun­try,” Mr. Rashid said. “Be­cause of Imran Khan, we could be iso­lated in the world.”

Mr. Rashid said Satur­day that the gov­ern­ment’s an­tidrone stance is clear and ac­cused Mr. Khan of “play­ing pol­i­tics.”

Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif also has been a vo­cal critic of drone strikes since he took of­fice in June. He pushed Pres­i­dent Obama to end the at­tacks dur­ing a visit to Wash­ing­ton in Oc­to­ber, but the U.S. has shown no in­di­ca­tion it will stop us­ing a tool it views as vi­tal for bat­tling al Qaeda and the Tal­iban.

Mr. Khan has pushed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to block NATO sup­plies across the coun­try to force the U.S. to end drone strikes, but it has shown lit­tle in­ter­est in do­ing so. While Mr. Sharif has said he wants the at­tacks to end, he has made clear that he val­ues a friendly re­la­tion­ship with the U.S.

It’s un­clear if the gov­ern­ment will take ac­tion to pre­vent Khan sup­port­ers from stop­ping NATO sup­ply trucks.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

‘Sup­port­ers of the Pak­istani re­li­gious party Jam­mat-e-Is­lami rally against U.S. drone strikes in Pak­istani ar­eas, in Karachi on Sun­day. Other demon­stra­tors roughed up driv­ers as they sought to stop NATO sup­ply trucks.

Nor­land

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