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Close down US Embassy in SD – former Ambassador

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TIMOTHY SIMELANE - SWAZI TIMES-29-Jan-2011

MBABANE – Former United States Ambassador to Swaziland John Sprott has been lobbying for the closure of the US Embassy in the country.

The current US Ambassador to Swaziland is Earl Irving.

Sprott is one of the people in the US who have been trying to convince President Barack Obama’s government to close down the local embassy. The former embassador feels that the expenditure in maintaining the embassy cannot be justified.

Sprott says a mere Consulate office would do instead of a fully fledged embassy. Meanwhile Sprott felt Swazis should have been using the US embassy in Pretoria because it is just three hours away.

"I told state (the US State Department) that if there is a collapse in Swaziland there will be a major refugee problem in South Africa and a problem for the region," Sprott said. He felt the steady economic decline documented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in periodic warnings had since last month shown signs of a worsening slide. However, President Barack Obama’s government is not considering any change in status of the US Embassy in Swaziland, despite being lobbied to do so.

When contacted to ascertain if the closure was imminent, US Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Molly Sanchez Crowe said, "Former US Ambassador to Swaziland John Sprott is now a private citizen.  As such, he is free to make any comments he wishes.  However, his comments no longer represent US government policy."

"The United States recognised the Kingdom of Swaziland and established an Embassy in Mbabane in 1968.  Since that time, the US has maintained our Embassy here to represent the United States government in the Kingdom," Crowe said. On another note, Crowe said the US Embassy staff in Swaziland had grown in recent years and was expected to remain at the current level or increase in the coming years.

The Embassy based at the Central Bank of Swaziland employs various Swazis together with the US office at the Kent Rock at Sandla, Mbabane. Crowe added; "We value our longstanding relationship with this country and we are proud of our partnership on issues such as the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Our Embassy will remain a vital link between the United States and the Kingdom of Swaziland."

Mildred Lukhele, a financial officer for the refugee aid organisation Caritas, was quoted by foreign media saying: "Although we deal with incoming refugees and not outgoing – we had many refugees in Swaziland from South Africa and Mozambique in the 1990s – Swazis (seeking employment) will go to those neighbouring countries."


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