- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Pakistan visit urged

Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi is getting some support on Capitol Hill in her efforts to persuade President Clinton to include Pakistan on his South Asia trip next month.

Sen. Tim Johnson is circulating a letter among his Senate colleagues, urging them to sign an appeal to Mr. Clinton to add Pakistan to his visit to India and Bangladesh.

The South Dakota Democrat argued that leaving Pakistan off the itinerary would be a "snub [to a] traditional ally" of the United States.

Mr. Clinton has said he has not yet decided whether to include Pakistan on his visit, the first by an American president in 22 years.

Mr. Johnson said he understands the administration's reluctance to meet Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler who overthrew a democratic, if corrupt, government in October.

However, Mr. Johnson said he had a "very candid and positive discussion" with Gen. Musharraf on a visit to Pakistan last month.

Mr. Johnson insisted he "received strong assurances that [Gen. Musharraf] would act positively regarding U.S. concerns about the restoration of democracy, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the threat of terrorism in the region."

In the letter to Mr. Clinton, Mr. Johnson argued, "Staying engaged with Pakistan through its interim government is the best way to encourage renewal of democracy and pro-Western attitudes and policies.

"It is essential for America's leadership for peace, security and democracy in South Asia that you visit Pakistan and engage in a direct dialogue with its current government."

Thank you for smoking

The State Department insists it is not encouraging smoking but would be happy if Middle East smokers join the U.S. dragnet for terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.

Spokesman James P. Rubin says the department has distributed matchbooks with bin Laden's picture on the cover and offering a reward of up to $5 million for the capture of the suspected mastermind of the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

"Now that is not to say that we are encouraging people to smoke. Let me take a deep breath [and] consider recusing myself from what comes next," said Mr. Rubin, himself a smoker.

"People use matches for a variety of reasons, including cooking," Mr. Rubin, reading from a prepared statement, told a room full of chuckling reporters at a press briefing last week.

More on Taiwan

The war of words over the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act has echoed in Taipei where former Rep. Stephen Solarz expressed hope that the U.S. Senate will approve the House-passed bill.

Mr. Solarz, a Democrat who represented New York in the House, visited Taiwan last week and added his voice to a dispute that has enraged China's ambassador to the United States, who is lobbying the Senate to defeat the measure.

"I am hopeful the overwhelming majority of support in the House will impact the Senate," Mr. Solarz told the Taipei Times.

The House voted 341-70 earlier this month to approve the bill that would increase U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

If the Senate rejects the bill, it will "mislead Beijing into thinking it can push Taiwan around," he said.

The Taiwan newspaper also portrayed Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese ambassador in Washington, as King Kong waving a Molotov cocktail and climbing over the Statue of Liberty while demanding the bill be defeated.

In Washington, the measure has sparked a blunt exchange between Mr. Li and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican.

Mr. Helms, in a letter to the ambassador, complained about China's "threatening military buildup and belligerent rhetoric [against] Taiwan."

Mr. Li denounced Mr. Helms' "bombardment of attacks, ridicule and insinuation."

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