- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Diplomatic security

James Collins remembers what it was like to serve as a U.S. diplomat without fear that some terrorist, anti-American thug or religious extremist would try to kill you.

"When I came into the Foreign Service, the idea that you were going to have a serious problem of people targeting American embassies was a fact of life in a few places," Mr. Collins, now U.S. ambassador to Russia, said as he dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in Moscow last week.

"It is now a fact of life everywhere. Certainly I would say 15, 20 years ago the idea that we would be facing a grenade attack or somebody shooting at the building here was quite far from anybody's mind."

The bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 1998 helped underscore the growing threat to U.S. diplomatic missions. The State Department orders all new embassies be built with an emphasis on security.

From Ottawa to Berlin and Moscow, new embassies are set back from nearby roads and designed to fortresslike standards.

The $260 million Moscow embassy has heavy iron gates and an automatic barrier to protect the entrance to the modernist steel, stone and glass compound. Mr. Collins would not discuss the anti-bomb features of the new embassy.

"It's built to all of the latest security standards including those that were put into place after the bombings in Africa," Mr. Collins told reporters.

In August 1998, truck bombs exploded outside the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Nairobi bombing killed 213 persons, including 12 Americans, and injured 5,000 others. The second bombing killed 11 Tanzanians and wounded more than 70.

In Moscow, the old embassy was hit by a grenade and gunfire last summer during protests against the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia. Mobs in China, attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.

Honoring Thai heroes

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Richard Hecklinger this week honored 19 surviving members of the "Free Thai" resistance who fought with the Allies against a Japanese occupation force in World War II.

Mr. Hecklinger presented medals on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency to the living veterans and 23 medals to relatives of deceased members in a ceremony in Bangkok.

The underground movement was founded in 1941 by Thai students living in the United States who volunteered for secret operations coordinated by the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

No coup in Ivory Coast

The U.S. ambassador to the Ivory Coast yesterday disagreed with the country's military leader, who has accused mutinous soldiers of trying to overthrow his government.

Ambassador George Mu told reporters that the United States believes last week's street protests were caused by troops demanding overdue bonus pay they were promised when they brought the military junta to power in a coup in December.

"I still believe from all the evidence we have seen that the events of last week were primarily generated by economic reasons. We don't see any political motive or imperative," he said, after meeting junta leader Gen. Robert Guei.

"We are very concerned about the stability of Ivory Coast. It is very important for us, for our people, for our business to have stability here," Mr. Mu added.

Hundreds of soldiers staged demonstrations on July 4 to demand bonus pay of $8,500 apiece. The dispute was settled when the junta agreed to pay them $1,400 each, the Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.

Closer to NATO

Lithuania's defense minister said his recent Washington visit left him "more optimistic" about his country's chances of joining NATO.

Ceslovas Stankevicius said administration officials he met expressed "determination to implement the unification of Europe."

"Lithuania is ready for NATO membership," he said at a luncheon held at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

He cited Lithuania's "entrenched democracy" and a military "capable of defending our country."

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