U.S. Image Abroad Hard To Fix, Longtime Ally Says

March 13th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Image Abroad Hard To Fix, Longtime Ally Says

New York Times
March 13, 2008
Pg. 9
By Alison Smale
PARIS — Bernard Kouchner, the foreign minister of France and a longtime humanitarian, diplomatic and political activist, said this week that whoever succeeds President Bush might restore something of the United States’ battered image and standing overseas but that “the magic is over.”
Mr. Kouchner also held out the hope that talks could be held with Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip but that has been ostracized by the West and by its Palestinian rival, Fatah, because it opposes peace talks with Israel and denies that Israel has a right to exist.
He made his comments on Tuesday in a wide-ranging conversation with Roger Cohen of The International Herald Tribune at the opening of a Forum for New Diplomacy in Paris.
Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it had suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, Mr. Kouchner replied, “It will never be as it was before.”
“I think the magic is over,” he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of France’s strongest supporters of the United States.
Mr. Kouchner noted that the United States’ military supremacy endured and that Mr. Bush’s successor would “decide what to do. There are many means to re-establish the image.” But even that, he said, “will take time.”
Mr. Kouchner began the 90-minute event with a speech emphasizing that “there is not just a new diplomacy; there is a new world.” To those intimidated by or fearful of what seem to be the rising challenges of globalization, climate change, spreading disease or new technology, he had a simple message: “The great difficulty is to accept this new world.”
“There are not more problems — please, have a little memory — than 35 years ago,” he said, recalling how in 1971 he co-founded the organization Doctors Without Borders in response to the horrors of the conflict in Nigeria over Biafra’s secession effort.
The challenges, Mr. Kouchner said, may be daunting. Some of the most persistent diplomatic challenges emanate from the Middle East, and he was asked about approaches to Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for the destruction of Israel, or to Hamas, which has the same stated goal.
Mr. Kouchner and other European diplomats have tried to talk Iran out of its nuclear program. Western powers contend that the program is a step toward nuclear arms; Iran insists it is solely for peaceful energy purposes.
But Europeans have officially rejected all contact with Hamas, listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. Asked whether there was a way to engage Hamas, which is supported by a significant minority of Palestinians, Mr. Kouchner appeared to hold out hope of contact.
“I’m looking for a diplomatic way to say yes,” he said.
He then noted that, in general, “we have to talk with our enemies” and that the Fatah faction of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank, “always said they were in favor” of unity talks with Hamas. But since Hamas routed Fatah forces from Gaza in June, Mr. Abbas has refused to deal with Hamas, which he accused of committing a coup.

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