Iraq ambassador to UN scheduled to speak at La Grua Center Jan. 23

Stonington - In part because of suggestions from residents and the contacts they have around the world, the La Grua Center has presented an impressive list of lecturers and performers over the past few years.

It will add to that list at 6 p.m. Jan. 23, when in cooperation with the Southeast Connecticut World Affairs Council, it will present a lecture by Mohammed Alhakim, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations. He is slated to discuss the challenges of rebuilding Iraq in a turbulent Middle East and take questions from what is expected to be a full house.

In a news release, the center said that Alhakim, his nation's current permanent representative to the United Nations, has been one of the most active senior government officials for the new Iraq.

La Grua Center Executive Director Jane Simmons Meiser called Alhakim's lecture "a very exciting and timely event," considering the changes currently going on in Iraq.

According to a United Nations' press release, the 61-year-old Alhakim began his position last spring and has held numerous positions with his government.

He was previously the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations Office in Geneva, and represented his country at the Human Rights Council, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and Conference on Disarmament.

He has worked in the Iraqi Foreign Affairs Ministry and served in its National Assembly. He represented his government at a Tokyo summit that trained Iraqi legislators on drafting the country's constitution.

He has also served as his country's minister of telecommunications and as acting minister of finance during Iraq's debt relief negotiations.

Meiser said the center was able to secure Alhakim's appearance because of a suggestion from Stuart J.D. Schwartzstein, who moved to the borough six months ago from Washington, D.C., and is a friend of Alhakim. He met the ambassador when he worked with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Schwartzstein has worked for the Defense and State Departments as a diplomat, analyst, negotiator, adviser and planner and held positions in several think tanks.

While at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 1992 to 1996, he worked on issues pertaining to Iraq, particularly focusing on human rights violations by Saddam Hussein.

In 2004, he served in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad as an adviser to the minister for science and technology and to the president of the Iraqi National Academy of Sciences.

A biography provided by the La Grua Center states that Schwartzstein "has continued to follow events in Iraq and has maintained contact with a number of Iraqi friends, including several in senior Iraqi government positions."

Meiser said Schwartzstein is interested in bringing more foreign affairs and international cultural events to the La Grua Center.

Admission is free. Donations are accepted. Seating is limited so the center advises people to arrive early.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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