- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Gesture of help

Rebels in Colombia have declared President Clinton "persona non grata." Labor unions plan demonstrations.

Intellectuals will sneer at the American leader and complain of U.S. imperialism.

Privately, most Colombians except for the rebels, of course will welcome Mr. Clinton's day trip tomorrow, according to a visiting Colombian senator.

"The people of Colombia are for it, but not openly," said Enrique Gomez Hurtado. "To be anti-American is very fashionable."

Mr. Gomez, addressing a luncheon at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, said Colombians appreciate the visit and the $1.3 billion U.S. aid package that Mr. Clinton signed last month.

The package will help Colombia fight the twin scourge of drug trafficking and Marxist rebels who profit from it.

"The aid package is the first gesture of help," Mr. Gomez said.

"We are seen as the country that is poisoning the world" through the production of cocaine and heroin, he said.

"But the problem is consumption. The problem is here," he added, referring to the United States.

Mr. Gomez, an eight-year veteran in the Colombian Senate, is a former president of the Conservative Party.

Although President Andres Pastrana is now the most prominent member of the party, Mr. Gomez spares him no criticism.

Mr. Gomez expressed great disappointment with Mr. Pastrana's attempts to negotiate with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), especially his decision to allow the rebels to administer a zone the size of Switzerland with 100,000 Colombian citizens.

That was supposed to have been an incentive for peace talks, Mr. Gomez said.

"Colombian opinion is fed up with the process," he said. "I have told Pastrana many times that the way he is going he will destroy the party."

Mr. Gomez denounced the rebels who run a "brutal" and "dictatorial regime … comparable to that of Pol Pot in Cambodia."

"The guerrillas' reign of terror not only affects citizens in the [rebel] zone, but the whole country and all parts and levels of the government," Mr. Gomez said.

"Today, it is increasingly difficult to speak the truth about what the guerrillas do without risking one's life, work, possessions and family.

"A law of silence and submission is being imposed in Colombia."

Mr. Gomez, whose brother was killed by the rebels, plans to lead a delegation into the zone to demonstrate that government still claims sovereignty over the area.

Leave Jerusalem alone

The best solution for Jerusalem is no solution, at least for now, according to Zalman Shoval, former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Shoval told reporters in Washington yesterday that President Clinton is unlikely to see a final status for Jerusalem before he leaves office and that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will never gain total control over the city Israel claims as its "eternal and undivided" capital.

The Camp David talks broke down over the issue of Jerusalem, which Arabs demand as a capital of a future Palestinian state.

"Jerusalem is legally, morally and historically part of the people of Israel," he said, adding that no political party will give up sovereignty over the city.

"If you don't want to create a major conflagration, let's not get into that intricate question," he said.

"It cannot be solved the way President Clinton wants to solve it," he said.

At the Camp David summit in July, Mr. Clinton supported giving Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of East Jerusalem, a position endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Mr. Shoval said Israel remains "greatly worried" about Iraq and Iran.

He fears that Iraq "could get back in a year or so to where it was before the Gulf war" because of the lack of U.N. inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

"Iraq threatens not just Israel. It threatens the world," Mr. Shoval said.

He also dismissed talk about centrists and reforms in Iran.

"The real proof is not in the rhetoric, but in who controls the army, the intelligence, the government, the policy," he said.

"The Mideast is still a very dangerous place."

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