Yusuf Saloojee reinstated as South African Ambassador in Oman

H E Yusuf Saloojee (Muscat Daily)

Muscat - 

The South African Ambassador to Oman H E Yusuf Saloojee has been reinstated in his position following a three-month suspension. In July this year, the South African government had recalled Saloojee amid an investigation into allegations of bribery dating back to his tenure as ambassador to Iran.

Following the internal probe, the ambassador has returned to his position in Muscat again and officially took charge on October 12. When Muscat Daily sought his reaction on the suspension on Sunday, H E Saloojee said, "The fact that I am back is a statement in itself. I'm very happy to be back at my post.

"This is my final year. My term [in Oman] will end in a few months time. In the last part of my term here, I'll carry on my work as usual and... clear the way for the next ambassador."

The South African envoy arrived in Oman in early 2009 and is scheduled to end his term in December this year.

Saloojee, who was accused of taking bribes from South African telecom giant MTN to help it win an operating licence in Iran, firmly denied the allegation.

"I irrevocably deny that I took or will take any bribe from anybody, not just MTN. I never have and I never will. All I was doing in Iran was carrying out my job and my duty in terms of economic diplomacy, which is the most important part of my job."

Speaking about the relations between Oman and South Africa, Saloojee emphasised the commonality in the basic principles of foreign policy in both countries.

"There is a great deal of similarity in how Oman and South Africa view international issues. Both our nations share a common desire to see that conflicts are resolved through peaceful means without interference in the internal affairs of any country," he said.

He referred to the establishment of the South Africa-Oman Partnership Forum as a crucial step towards strengthening of Oman-South Africa ties. The forum was set up through the signing of an agreement between Oman's Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs H E Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on October 29, 2010.

"The first meeting of the forum was held in Muscat last year. The second meeting was scheduled for November 6 this year but was postponed. It is being rescheduled and will probably be held next year," said the envoy.

Saloojee counted South African President Jacob Zuma's Oman visit last year as the highlight of his nearly four-year term in the sultanate. "The President came along with a huge delegation of ministers and South African businessmen, who have been paying immense attention in doing business with Oman," he said.

"Since the President's visit, South African products have witnessed a significant increase in demand in supermarkets across Oman," added H E Saloojee. Encouraged by this, the embassy has announced that it will host an exhibition of South African products on November 27.

The envoy also hopes to see more tie-ups in the agricultural sector. "It's an area where South Africa has a great deal of expertise. There are a number of possible projects in the agricultural field which I would like to pursue and conclude... to ensure that those things continue even after I leave."

Asked about his future plans, the veteran diplomat, who has also served ambassadorial terms in UAE (1998-2002) and Iran (2004-08), said, "I haven't yet taken a decision.

"I don't know whether the department would like me to continue since I am past the retirement age. Although in my vocabulary there's no word called retirement."

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