- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Beware in Israel

The State Department yesterday defended its warning to Americans to take precautions against terrorist attacks in Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas.

"We believe there is an increased possibility for terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and … we have a responsibility to advise American citizens who live and travel in the area of our assessment of the security situation," said spokesman Philip Reeker.

Israeli and Palestinian officials yesterday criticized the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Israel for issuing the public announcement.

It urged Americans to avoid riding public buses and be cautious near bus stops and crowds. Arab terrorists have targeted buses and public squares in the past.

Danny Yatom, security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said he tried to persuade U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk not to issue the announcement.

"I truly do not know why the embassy made this public. I told him that in my opinion this notice didn't have to go out," Mr. Yatom told Israel's Army Radio.

Jibril Rajoub, West Bank security chief for the Palestinian Authority, was more blunt.

"This statement is nothing more than propaganda by the State Department," he told a news conference.

"As the person in charge of the security situation in the West Bank, I think that the Americans are secure in the Palestinian territories."

In Washington, Mr. Reeker told reporters, "There is no reason to believe that there is a specific threat directed against Americans, but we do urge all Americans traveling or living in those areas to increase their vigilance with respect to their personal security."

Mr. Reeker said the warning is unrelated to a visit to Israel by U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, who is trying to help revive peace talks after the collapse of the Camp David summit.

"I think anyone that's studied the history of the region in those areas for many, many years, decades now, understands the terrorist risks," he said.

"We've seen the threats that are out there. We've talked about these many times. And this is simply a way of reminding people of those threats and that they need to take appropriate steps to watch out for their security."

More thanks for trip

More letters are pouring into the Potomac Exchange from ambassadors who participated in a trip to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis of Cyprus and Shunji Yanai of Japan added their congratulations to Leo G.B. Welt, president of the nonprofit group that organized a special train trip and political briefings.

"I wish to warmly thank you for the … wonderful experience at the Republican convention," Mrs. Kozakou-Marcoullis wrote.

"Both my husband and I enjoyed the whole program and fully appreciated the very high level and usefulness of the briefings."

She said the trip to the convention gave "us the opportunity to experience the U.S. political process in the making."

The briefings included former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger and George Shultz, and Lynne Cheney, a prominent conservative writer and wife of Republican vice-presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney.

The Japanese ambassador added, "Your efforts allowed me to witness personally the American political process and, in particular, what seems to be a resurgence of the Republican Party."

Drug pact ratified

Honduras yesterday ratified an anti-drug agreement with the United States to allow American forces to patrol in Honduran airspace and territorial waters.

Ramon Villeda, chairman of the Honduran congressional foreign affairs committee, told reporters that the pact will allow the U.S. Coast Guard to board ships suspected of smuggling drugs in Honduran waters.

It also provides for joint air and land patrols, he said.

The United States has similar agreements with Aruba, Curacao, Ecuador and El Salvador.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House anti-drug czar, has said the agreements "plug the last hole" in the Caribbean and Latin America to fight drug smuggling of Colombian cocaine heading to the United States.

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