- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

The State Department, worried about the extent of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, gathered dozens of diplomats and Foreign Service officials based in Muslim nations yesterday for a conference in Cairo aimed at finding ways to reverse the trend.
The two-day session, closed to the press and the public, was described by a State Department official as an "internal meeting" focusing on how "to interact with Muslim communities" in more than 35 countries.
"The conference is part of our broader effort to think about U.S. foreign policy and to ensure that our discussions contain maximum input from our diplomats around the world," the official said.
The Cairo meeting is the second such attempt to address Washington's unsuccessful public diplomacy campaign in the Arab world. A conference titled "Engaging the Islamic World" was held Sept. 17 at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington.
The difference between the events, the official said, is the format.
The first forum featured speakers from universities and think tanks addressing an audience of State Department employees. At the session in Egypt, senior U.S. officials and diplomats are speaking before Foreign Service officers stationed overseas.
One of the key speakers in Cairo is the State Department's director of policy planning, Richard Haass, who has been touring the Gulf region in the past week.
Before Egypt, Mr. Haass visited Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. His trip has been in the works for months and its goal is reviewing U.S. policy in the region, the official said.
One of the speakers at the Arlington meeting said it was "commendable" that the government was "trying to get a sense of what's going on out there the debates and points of conversation in the Muslim community post-September 11."
Some of the academics who spoke at the earlier conference had been directly involved with communities in various Muslim nations, while others had conducted field research in those countries, the participant said.
One of the main points made during the Arlington session was that most people in the Arab and Muslim world see "neocolonial intentions in whatever the United States does" in the Middle East, he said.
As the U.S. diplomats in Cairo pondered the dimensions of anti-Americanism, a group of Islamic scholars yesterday set out on a tour of France and Italy to restore the image of their religion that was tarnished by last year's terrorist attacks.
Their goal is "to show the real image of Islam" and "correct the one propagated after September 11," delegation leader Gaafar Abdul Salam told reporters in Cairo.
The delegation, which visited the United States, Britain and Belgium on a previous tour, includes scholars from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Jordan and Mauritania, Mr. Salam said.
The 22-member Cairo-based Arab League earlier this year named a commissioner in charge of "promoting dialogue between civilizations" and adopted a program "to confront campaigns" against Arabs and Muslims.

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