- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

MONEY FOR VETS

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines next week plans to start processing applications to compensate Philippine veterans of World War II who fought with U.S. forces but were denied their promised benefits after the war.

“These new benefits further reflect the United States‘ great respect for the bravery and service of Philippine WWII veterans and for their partnership with the U.S. military in defending freedom,” the embassy said Wednesday in a statement announcing the benefits.

The $198 million compensation package is part of the $787 billion economic-stimulus bill that President Obama signed Tuesday.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo praised the U.S. Congress for including the money in the spending bill to “correct a historic wrong.”

The United States promised Philippine veterans the same benefits as American veterans, but Congress stripped them of the financial assistance in 1946.

The Philippines estimates that more than 36,000 aging veterans will qualify for payments along with nearly 80,000 surviving spouses. The embassy said Philippine veterans who became U.S. citizens would receive a lump-sum payment of $15,000 and that those who retained their Philippine citizenship would receive $9,000 apiece.

EXPELLED FROM ECUADOR

Ecuador ordered the expulsion of an American diplomat on Wednesday, about 10 days after demanding the removal of another official from the U.S. Embassy.

“We are declaring Mr. Mark Sullivan persona non grata,” said Foreign Minister Fander Falconi, accusing the first secretary of the embassy of interfering in the selection of local police officers.

Ecuador gave Mr. Sullivan 48 hours to leave the South American nation.

On May 7, President Rafael Correa denounced Armando Astorga, a U.S. customs official, of trying to withhold financial aid for an anti-drug program until Washington approved the appointment of a new national anti-narcotics director.

Mr. Correa, who is running for re-election as a candidate who can withstand foreign pressure, denounced Mr. Astorga as “insolent and foolish.”

“Keep your dirty money,” Mr. Correa said in a radio address. “We don’t need it.”

The embassy said Mr. Astorga left the country in January after completing his assignment in Ecuador.

SRI LANKAN APPEAL

The ambassador from Sri Lanka is appealing to the Obama administration for help in stopping Tamil rebels from preventing ethnic Tamils from fleeing in the northern end of the South Asian island nation, where insurgents are still holding out against a government offensive.

“As the [Tamil] terrorists continue to put innocent civilians who seek safety from the conflict zone in harm’s way, we urge the international community and especially the United States to put pressure on the leadership of the [Tamil Tigers] to immediately release the remaining civilians held captive in the conflict zone,” Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya said in a statement released by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington.

“We are alarmed by the terrorists’ desperate tactics to disrupt the safe passage of innocents from the conflict zone,” he added, referring to a recent suicide-bomber attack in the region that killed 30 civilians and injured 60 others.

The State Department on Wednesday appeared to hold the government as responsible as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.

“We encourage both sides to allow civilians and noncombatants to leave the conflict zone,” said spokesman Gordon Duguid.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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