- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Mozambique's appeal

Mozambique's ambassador is disappointed in the level of U.S. emergency aid to his flood-ravaged country, especially after President Clinton cited Africa as a top foreign policy priority less than two weeks ago.

"This is a big power. We expect more," Ambassador Marcus Namashulua told Embassy Row yesterday.

The United States has provided about $1.7 million in relief, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said yesterday. Mozambique has made a worldwide appeal for $65 million and received less than $6 million.

Mr. Namashulua noted that Mr. Clinton recognized Mozambique for its economic progress when he addressed a Washington summit on Africa on Feb. 18.

"Now all of the efforts we have made were washed away with the flood," he said.

The ambassador was also saddened that the U.S. media is just now reporting on a human disaster that has been building for a month. He cited 500,000 victims from the raging floodwaters.

Mr. Rubin yesterday said the United States is sending 6,000 5-gallon water containers, 6,000 wool blankets, 200 rolls of plastic sheeting for temporary shelter and 30,000 pounds of high-energy biscuits. Those supplies are expected to arrive today. A 14-member rescue team is already there, Mr. Rubin said.

Mr. Namashulua said his country appreciates the supplies but desperately needs helicopters to evacuate victims who have been clinging to the tops of trees or perching on rooftops as rising water laps at their feet.

South Africa has sent five or six helicopters but that falls far short of their need, Mr. Namashulua said.

"People have been stranded in trees and on rooftops for two to three days," he said. "Our immediate need is for helicopters. That would be the first thing."

Mozambique will need even more help when floodwaters recede, leaving a devastated countryside.

"These people have lost everything. They have to rebuild their lives," he said.

At the State Department, Mr. Rubin tried to defend the level of U.S. aid after a reporter told him African newspapers are calling the American assistance "paltry" and mocking Mr. Clinton for his comments on the importance of Africa.

"We always wish we could do more, and we're doing a substantial amount to try to ease humanitarian relief ease humanitarian crisis there," Mr. Rubin said.

"This is a flood that has caused damage that we're responding to, and we certainly hope that our friends and allies in Africa don't have the views that you attributed to some critics," he told the reporter.

He said those who want to help can call 800/USAID-RELIEF between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Israeli-Syria talks?

Syria has "cast a shadow" over any immediate resumption of peace talks with Israel, but they could reconvene "within one month," as Israeli official said yesterday in Washington.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh held out hope for talks with Syria, as Arab diplomats in Jordan were quoted as predicting new negotiations could begin later this month. Both Israel and the United States denied those reports. Mr. Sneh, in remarks at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, faulted Syria for "propaganda" that compared Israelis to Nazis.

"This is not the way to build public opinion in Israel," he said, referring to the Israeli requirement of a voter referendum to approve any peace deal with Syria.

He urged Syria to restrain Hezbollah guerrillas from further attacks on Israeli soldiers in the Israeli-occupied area in Southern Lebanon. Israel retaliated against recent attacks with air strikes against Lebanese power plants, which have outraged many Arab countries.

"You know where escalation begins, but you never know where it will end," Mr. Sneh warned.

"We must do everything to oppose a future war," he said.

He also expressed optimism over the prospects of new talks with the Palestinians and blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the breakdown in negotiations.

Israeli security requirements "are not irreconcilable with Palestinian demands," he said.

He predicted that with good faith negotiations, "we can have a final status agreement by the end of the year."

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