- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

SYRIA

Return of wounded men is being pursued quietly

DAMASCUS — Syria’s foreign minister said yesterday that Damascus wants to avoid tensions with Washington and is quietly seeking the return of five Syrian border guards wounded and taken by U.S. forces during a battle on the Iraqi border.

Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa also said the U.S.-backed “road map” for Middle East peace should be given a chance. Syria has criticized the road map because if does not address the Golan Heights, territory it lost to Israel in a 1967 war.

The June 18 border clash, during which U.S. forces attacked what they suspected were fleeing officials of Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime, threatened to stoke already-strained relations between Washington and Damascus.

IRAN

British envoy delivers warning on nuclear sites

TEHRAN — British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday that Tehran’s failure to allow fuller inspections of its nuclear sites could damage international confidence in Iran and its trade with the European Union.

Mr. Straw’s visit comes as global pressure mounts on Iran to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to allow more inspections of its nuclear program.

“I drew attention to the [International Atomic Energy Agency] chairman’s conclusions that Iran unconditionally and quickly sign the additional protocol,” Mr. Straw said at a news conference.

GERMANY

Schroeder seeks growth with early tax cuts

BERLIN — Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced a plan yesterday to bring forward tax cuts worth about $20.6 billion, a move that could inject new life into Europe’s largest economy.

Germany’s economy is in its third year of near-zero growth and shrank 0.2 percent in the first quarter, helping push unemployment to more than 10 percent.

The income-tax reduction was supposed to be the last part of a 2001-05 tax-relief plan. With an $8 billion cut slated for 2004, Mr. Schroeder has said the last two steps could be combined if plans to shake up the job market and trim the welfare state are also implemented.

International declaration urges ‘road map’ progress

Nearly 150 lay representatives of 25 nations, meeting during the weekend in Arlington, adopted a declaration yesterday encouraging progress on the Middle East “road map” and calling for “greater mutual understanding, respect and cooperation” among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The delegates to the sessions, sponsored by the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, heard Dr. Noel Brown, president of the Friends of the United Nations and the former director of the U.N. Environmental Program, plead for economic development as a key to peace in the region.

“Entrepreneurship incentives such as the Middle East Entrepreneur Summit that encourages young people to live, work and trade together in the region is a viable and proven successful way out of what otherwise seems to be an impasse,” he said.

CUBA

Tourism bounces back from two-year slump

HAVANA — Tourism, Cuba’s main foreign-exchange earner, has recovered from a post-September 11 decline that slowed its efforts to pull out of economic crisis, the Tourism Ministry announced.

As of yesterday, 1 million tourists had visited Cuba this year, a 16 percent increase compared with the same period in 2002, the ministry said. Foreign companies, such as France’s Accor and Spain’s Sol Melia, manage the majority of five-star and four-star hotels in Cuba.

Eric Peyre, Cuban sales director for Accor, said Cuba had not felt the drop in U.S. tourists that other Caribbean islands were experiencing because an economic embargo bars most of its citizens from visiting.

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