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Negotiating The Tough Road Ahead

Negotiating The Tough Road AheadLess than six weeks after David Welch was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, the region's political landscape changed in an instant -- leaving the Tufts grad with an extraordinary challenge. Cairo, Egypt.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.25.01] When he was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt in August, David Welch was charged with bringing stability and peace to the shaky region. Six weeks later, terrorists led the single biggest attack against the U.S. in its history -- instantly changing the political landscape in the Middle East and thrusting the newly appointed Tufts graduate into uncertain territory.

"The regional political situation was testy enough when Welch was sworn in by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Aug. 3, as the ambassador ... but no one could have predicted the shift in climate that followed the terrorist attacks on the U.S.," reported Business Today.

Welch, who began his foreign service career in Pakistan in 1979 after earning a master's degree from Tufts' Fletcher School, is no stranger to the challenges facing the Middle East.

According to Business Today, "As a career diplomat, Welch has more than enough experience in senior foreign policy positions to stand the test, analysts say. And his service during the 1980s in several key positions in other Middle Eastern nations should have given him a strong understanding of Arab political culture."

But the events of Sept. 11 have transformed the political picture in the Middle East and put increasing pressure on ongoing efforts to bring peace to the region.

"Our country has been involved in a search for peace in the Middle East since 1967 at the highest levels of our government," Welch said in an interview with an Egyptian television network. "We won't drop that pursuit, simply because of the crime that has occurred against us. Quite the contrary. We intend to redouble our effort to see it to a successful conclusion."

Of particular interest to Egypt is the resolution of the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath, Welsh said, will not deter his efforts on this front.

"We have been working very hard to restore some calm and stability to a situation between Israel and the Palestinians for quite some time," he told Egyptian state television. "I am convinced that it is necessary for us to press ahead in this endeavor. I am pleased that our administration is not distracted, even in the face of this terrorist calamity."

Unlike his predecessors, however, the 1977 Fletcher School graduate must try to maintain strong relations between the U.S., Egypt and the rest of the Middle East in the midst of a war that worries many people in the region.

According to Agence France Presse, fears are running particularly high that the U.S. may expand its anti-terrorism campaign beyond Afghanistan and into neighboring Arab states.

While Welch stressed that the U.S. has a strong relationship with many countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, he didn't rule out the possibility of an expanded campaign.

"We don't know where the evidence might lead in the future or what tentacles this organization has elsewhere in the world," he said in the AFP report. "But we feel ourselves obligated to go after that problem wherever it appears."

But the ambassador said the U.S. has many methods of fighting terrorism that do not involve military action.

"While we are watching on the news some of the more dramatic examples of the fight against terrorism, we need to recognize that there are many things going on behind the scenes that are as vitally important -- the struggle over the control of money; the safe havening of terrorists in various countries of the world; the police work necessary to find them out," Welch said.

The U.S.-led efforts will likely pose some new challenges for Welch, as he settles into his new post. But the Tufts graduate is taking a long-term approach.

"This is a world wide problem," he said. "It's not a simple problem to tackle. We recognize that it is going to have to be done over a long period of time using a wide variety of tools."

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